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Secondary legislation reforms at a glance

Secondary legislation a new category

The secondary legislation reforms establish one unified and simple category of law where previously several overlapping and confusing categories existed (section 5 Legislation Act 2019 and the Secondary Legislation Act 2021).

Secondary legislation is law made:

  • by someone other than Parliament
  • under a power that Parliament has formally delegated in a particular Act of Parliament (the “primary” legislation).   

(In a small number of cases secondary legislation is made not under an Act but under the Royal prerogative.)

The reforms resolve the problems with the previous categories that Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee had identified in its 2014 Inquiry into oversight of disallowable instruments that are not legislative instruments.  They create the necessary foundation for further improvements in secondary legislation into the future.

Parliamentary oversight

The reforms make clear that all secondary legislation can be disallowed by Parliament, unless Parliament has given a specific exemption

Publishing requirements

For secondary legislation made under existing Acts (ie Acts in force before the reforms) there is no change for now to how it must be published.  The current publishing requirements will continue exactly as they were previously, providing a smooth transition.  The PCO will make this legislation easier for users to find by adding notes on the NZ Legislation website.

For secondary legislation made under new Acts and empowering provisions (ie Acts and provisions enacted after the reforms), uniform publishing requirements will apply.  It must be notified in the New Zealand Gazette and published in full online:

  • the full text of secondary legislation drafted by the PCO will continue to be published on the New Zealand Legislation website, and
  • secondary legislation drafted by bodies other than the PCO will be published on an internet site maintained by or on behalf of that body.

Further reforms are possible in the future, eg requiring agencies to relocate all their secondary legislation to one central website. These would require significant new IT and business systems, and future government decisions.

Meanwhile, the reforms provide an opportunity for all bodies that make secondary legislation to improve their stewardship, by making secondary legislation easier for users to find, find their way around, and understand.

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