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Secondary Legislation Bill

Update: The Bill, now the Secondary Legislation Act 2021, received Royal assent on 24 March 2021. This Act, together with the Legislation Act 2019, came into force on 28 October 2021.

The Secondary Legislation Bill was introduced to the House on 10 December 2019. It received its first reading on 17 December and was referred to the Regulations Review Committee. Submissions on the Bill were invited from the public, closing on Friday 14 February 2020. Its third reading was on 18 March 2021.

About the Bill

The Bill has been developed alongside the Legislation Act 2019 to implement the new definition of “secondary legislation” in section 5 of that Act.

Secondary legislation is a new term in the Legislation Act 2019 for all legislation made under law-making powers delegated by Parliament, or under the Royal prerogative.

Some secondary legislation (such as regulations made by the Governor-General) is drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel Office, published on the New Zealand Legislation website, and is clearly subject to the oversight of the House of Representatives.

However, many other instruments with a legislative character are drafted by other agencies, and published in a variety of places. They may be made by Ministers, officials, or specialised bodies inside and outside government. They are often not explicitly stated to be legislation (they may be called “notices”, “directions”, or even “codes of practice”) making them hard to distinguish from the thousands of other administrative instruments issued by government each year. Whether they are subject to the oversight of the House depends on whether they have a “significant legislative effect”: a test set out in section 39 of the Legislation Act 2012, which is not always easy to apply.

As a result, it is hard to identify all of New Zealand’s legislation, impeding people’s ability to find the law that applies to them, as well as Parliament’s ability to oversee it.

To solve this problem:

  • the Legislation Act 2019 defines an instrument as secondary legislation if it is stated by an Act to be secondary legislation;
  • the Secondary Legislation Bill will insert those statements in each relevant empowering provision in Acts of Parliament.

The Bill reflects a judgement about which provisions empower the making of instruments with legislative effect. An explanation of this concept can be found in the explanatory note to the Bill.

The Secondary Legislation Bill and the Legislation Act 2019 will be brought into force at the same time. From that point, the definition of secondary legislation will apply to all relevant instruments, and they will generally be disallowable by the House of Representatives. The publication requirements that applied immediately before commencement will be preserved (see sections 73 and 74 of the Legislation Act 2019). (The centralised publication requirements in future amendments to Part 3 of the Legislation Act 2019 (found in the Legislation (Repeals and Amendments) Act 2019) take effect later when commenced by Order in Council.)

The Bill amends over 550 Acts. The amendments are set out in Schedules 1 to 32, and are arranged by administering agency. To make it easier to find amendments to particular Acts in the Bill, we have prepared an alphabetical list of all the Acts amended and the schedule(s) in which they are amended.

See also the departmental disclosure statement, prepared by the Parliamentary Counsel Office.

Proactive releases

Cabinet papers related to the Legislation Bill and the associated Cabinet Legislation Committee (LEG) minute have been proactively released:

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