The Human Rights Commission says it's "deeply concerned" about the lack of scrutiny and rushed process for the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill.

The bill, which set up the legal framework for future alert levels, was rushed through most of its legislative stages under urgency, with the support of Labour, NZ First, the Greens and Act.

But the Human Rights Commission says that despite the Government knowing for weeks that New Zealand will be moving to alert level 2, it has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of the alert level 2 legislation.

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"There has been no input from ordinary New Zealanders, which is deeply regrettable," said chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt.

"This is a great failure of our democratic process. The new legislation, if passed in its current state, will result in sweeping police powers unseen in this country for many years."


The Human Rights Commission is "strongly of the view" that the legislation must include a provision to ensure those making decisions, and exercising powers, under the new law, will do so in accordance with national and international human rights commitments and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

"Given our concerns expressed to the Attorney General yesterday about the two-year sunset clause in the bill, we are pleased to see that Parliament will be changing this to 90 days," Hunt said.

"However, given that the legislation encroaches on the civil liberties of New Zealanders we have serious concerns about whether the powers are proportionate."

In times of national emergency where sweeping powers are granted, Hunt says there is a risk of overreach, where mistakes are made and later regretted.

"This is precisely when our national and international human rights, and Te Tiriti, commitments must be taken into account," he added.

"Human rights can help to ensure all measures are effective, balanced, fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory, proportionate and subject to independent review. If the Government wishes to retain the public's trust and confidence, it must honour human rights and Te Tiriti." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Hunt says a process of regular review by Parliament is needed. If passed in its current form, he says the bill should be reviewed by select committee at regular terms and the Government should be open to any recommended changes.

Hunt said the bill currently lacks explicit reference to the Government's international human rights obligations.

"Discretion is needed that is proportionate to individual circumstances. The Government should ensure that explicit guidance is provided that allows for discretion to be exercised in the use of the bill's powers."