A grumpy Parliament voted to amend 17 pieces of legislation urgently to make it easier to gamble, hold local elections, conduct climate policy, consent developments, and assess RVs for homes under Covid conditions.
In a tense sitting, every party took a crack at the legislation, and at each other, before voting to pass the bill through first reading almost unanimously.
The ACT Party was the only party to oppose the bill, leader David Seymour saying the bill was an "abomination of a dangerous and damaging piece of legislation".
"This policy is wrong, this process of rushing through retrospective legislation that interferes in private contracts is completely wrong. It should not be happening in New Zealand and if it keeps happening the whole country will be poorer for it," he said.
An omnibus bill, it looks at many pieces of legislation and updates them to fit with Covid-19 conditions. The bill will now go to a truncated select committee stage, reporting back on October 14.
National, ACT and the Greens found reasons to dislike the bill.
Many parts of the legislation made it easier to do things that had traditionally been done face to face in pandemic conditions. The Gambling Act, for instance, will be changed to offer lottery tickets by email or by phone. The Coroners Act will be amended to allow coroners to hold hearings remotely.
National's Chris Bishop was concerned with changes that would give the Government much greater flexibility to delay next year's local body elections next year.
"This is not a good provision, you've got to ask yourself if it is really necessary. Local body elections, as you know, are done by postal votes," Bishop said.
"Why is the Government seeking the power through this bill?" he said.
The Green Party's Julie Anne Genter said her party would vote for the bill but it opposed an extension of a bill that allowed a fast-track of consenting requirements.
She also urged the Government to take tenancy protections further, saying there should be protections for people whose tenancies would expire during a lockdown because those people were unlikely to be able to find new accommodation until restrictions were lifted.
This drew criticism from National MP Simon Bridges, who called it "crazy", drawing a rebuke from Genter.
"I hear the Honourable Simon Bridges saying that's 'crazy', obviously the owners of private rental accommodation should have the ability to cast people out and make them homeless in the middle of a goddamn pandemic - what sort of morals do people in the National Party have that they actually think the owners of property have more rights than the rights of New Zealanders to have a secure place to live in the middle of a pandemic?" Genter said.
Seymour's main criticism was a policy to offer commercial tenants rent relief, an idea that was floated last term but killed off by New Zealand First.
Seymour said it would "undermine private contracts for commercial leases up and down this country".
"It doesn't matter what your lease says, we are changing a private document that two individuals voluntarily entered into," Seymour said.
"That means … that if you sign a contract with another New Zealander under New Zealand law you don't know when the Government might come along and change the nature of that contract," he said.
The bill will also skip a regulatory impact assessment as it technically qualifies as Covid legislation, for which these assessments were suspended last year.
Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said the latest Delta outbreak had necessitated the legislation be introduced and hurried.
"I am always open to conversations about progressing legislation through Parliament in haste, it is something I try to avoid doing," Hipkins said.
"Dealing with this particular Delta outbreak we do need to provide some of these relatively sensible commonsense measures. For example, the ability of the courts to deal with the backlog of cases is dependent on this bill passing its way through the House," he said.
Hipkins said the use of urgency was "technical" as it allowed the bill to bypass having to sit on the order paper before its first reading. He said this meant it could progress to a select committee before the adjournment.