Key Points:

A bill aimed up updating public health law was reported back to Parliament today, with National saying it would interfere with individual rights and increase cost and bureaucracy.

The Public Health Bill was intended to substantially replace and update the Health Act 1956 and the Tuberculosis Act 1947.

It included powers, including the possibility of regulations, to deal with non-communicable diseases and obesity.

In its minority report the National Party described voluntary codes of practice, which could be set up without affected sectors' input, as in the realm of a "nanny state".

National said the codes were regulations by stealth as they could be converted into law if the Health Ministry did not think the voluntary codes were working.

Codes could cover a range of things from what could be in a school lunchbox, to physical activity and food advertising.

National said the bill added a new form of bureaucracy as businesses would have to do public health risk management plans which would have to be assessed and approved.

It also said the bill would force private providers to give more information than currently required which would add costs - but could also mean they have to give confidential business information.

Another concern was local government were worried the bill would add costs as the Director General would have new powers to over-ride local decisions.

The report recommended the director-general of health be able to issue codes of practice and guidelines to combat non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or mental illness.

It also said regulations should be able to be made through order in council to reduce risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases.

The report said those who opposed the measures were largely from the food and advertising industries.

"The majority of us believe it is essential that a major piece of public health legislation address non-communicable disease which are the major public health issue of our time," the report said.

Regulations would be made only if the health minister felt voluntary codes had not met their goals after two years.

The report said codes should state objectives and targets.

Regulations would not affect editorial content but could cover advertising, sponsorship, marketing, packaging and labelling.

Amongst other changes were boosting the director-general of health's powers and recommending the position be held by a qualified medical practitioner with public health experience.

The public health role of territorial authorities was amended, with the report saying the health minister should be able to make or change proposals in some cases.

The Green Party said the bill would mean the health minister could issue regulations to reduce the risk associated with non-communicable disease.

"Given that poor diet is the leading cause of preventable illness and disease, it is vital that we take steps to create an environment which encourages healthy eating in New Zealand."

The party said it was strange that there were virtually unlimited powers to prevent communicable diseases but little to prevent or respond to non-communicable diseases.

The Greens disagreed with part of the bill that allowed people who were not vaccinated to be considered a public health risk.

- NZPA