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Access to Secondary Legislation Project news

December 2017

On 5 December the Legislation Bill received its first reading. This Bill, along with the upcoming Secondary Legislation (Access) Bill, provides the statutory structure for ensuring—for the first time—that secondary legislation is readily accessible online.

On behalf of the Attorney-General, Hon Chris Hipkins gave the first reading speech for the Legislation Bill, acknowledging the work of Hon Christopher Finlayson in the previous government. Minister Hipkins emphasised the need for New Zealanders to be able to access the law with ease. He linked this aim to the Government’s commitment to open and transparent government.

The ultimate ambition of the Legislation Bill in relation to access is for the full text of all secondary legislation to be published on the New Zealand Legislation website. The first step towards this goal is identifying all provisions in primary legislation that may empower the making of secondary legislation. In November the PCO completed the first stage of this analysis, having identified more than 5000 empowering provisions that may have legislative effect.

Legal and policy teams across the public service have been reviewing this analysis of the primary legislation their agency administers, using guidance provided by the PCO. We expect this work to be concluded by the end of January.

The PCO is well aware that, for some provisions, it can be difficult to decide whether they empower the making of secondary legislation or purely administrative instruments. Work is continuing on clarifying where the boundary should be drawn.

The next Bill, provisionally called the Secondary Legislation (Access) Bill, will amend each of the identified provisions in primary legislation to expressly state that they empower the making of secondary legislation. This Bill is expected to be introduced later in 2018.

The next step towards full publication is to locate and identify all the secondary legislation that is made under these empowering provisions. To achieve this, the PCO will be encouraging agencies that make secondary legislation to produce a list of all the secondary legislation made by them that is in force. This information will be made available through the NZ Legislation website.

Another key step is an IT solution to enable direct publication of the full text of secondary legislation onto the NZ Legislation website by agencies via a secure portal. To enable this, a Word template has been developed to guide drafters to produce legislation in a consistent style. Text drafted in this template can be easily converted to XML, PDF, and HTML. This will allow publication of the text in multiple formats, as is currently available for legislation on the NZ Legislation website.

Trials of the drafting template by several agencies have brought positive feedback that it is “just fabulous” and is “making life so much easier”. Some instruments drafted using the template have already been made and published online.

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Earlier news

  • 20 June 2017: the Legislation Bill is introduced to Parliament.
  • December 2016: Cabinet approves a proposal for the PCO to develop a system to enable secondary legislation drafted by agencies to be published on the New Zealand Legislation website. Cabinet also approves that that a Bill be drafted to implement the project. A team of legal researchers are searching for all provisions in legislation that empower instruments to be made that are legislative in nature.

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