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Quick-fire lawmaking cops criticism

Wairarapa MP and Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty’s rush to pass further legislation to “support the recovery and rebuild from the recent severe weather events in the North Island” has copped criticism from a leading law professor.

The Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Bill was announced on Monday. It was followed on Tuesday evening by a call for submissions on the bill.

The deadline for submissions was 5pm yesterday.

The speed did not impress Dean Knight, an associate professor at Victoria University’s faculty of law and a specialist in constitutional and administrative law, who said “this short-sharp public consultation period” was not adequate and represented a “Clayton’s form of public consultation and select committee scrutiny”.

Knight noted that the legislation provided a framework for emergency Orders-in-Council, which can be used by ministers to override primary legislation without going through Parliament for “large areas of the country for the next five years” that is “Muldoon-esque in breadth”. As part of his rushed submission on the bill, Knight has argued that it be “amended to ensure immediate post-enactment scrutiny and public submissions”, something he believed was “especially critical given the constitutional concerns implicated”.

Knight has also submitted that any orders under the bill “be made subject to confirmation by Parliament”, to enable “ongoing democratic oversight” and “ensure the House doesn’t let the measures slip into the shadows”.

In response to a query from the Times-Age regarding why such a short submission period was considered necessary, McAnulty acknowledged that “the bill was being progressed through the House at great speed” and that this “reduces the ability for the public to submit on the bill and for scrutiny by a select committee to occur”.

“However, speed is critical as recovery efforts will likely encounter substantive repair and rebuild issues, and individuals and businesses may face regulatory requirements that they struggle to meet. I consider that a shortened parliamentary process, including a shortened submission process, is justified.”

As for why the power to override primary legislation was considered desirable, McAnulty said he considered “this mechanism is necessary in the circumstances because it provides greater flexibility for the recovery effort that will best meet the needs of affected communities” and noted the bill includes checks and balances to ensure it’s used “appropriately”.

McAnulty emphasised that the bill “provides the Government with the flexibility to facilitate, enable and expedite the recovery” from the recent severe weather events.

“Ultimately, it will help communities back on their feet faster.”

Regarding the bill’s duration, McAnulty said that “the agencies most closely involved with recovery work advise that Orders-in-Council are likely to be required for up to five years due to the scale of some of the recovery projects”.

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