Over the Fence
Tougher firearms legislation now in force
The Arms Legislation Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 24 June 2020 and came into force immediately. The legislation imposes tighter controls on the use and possession of firearms. A key change is the introduction of a firearms registry, which will track how many firearms are in legal circulation, who holds them, who is selling them and who is buying them. People holding a firearms licence will be required to update the registry as they buy or sell guns.
Further changes include:
- The term of a firearms licence will be reduced to five years for first-time licence holders and those who have previously had their licence revoked or expired. The long-term firearms licence lasts for 10 years
- Offences and penalties have been increased to reflect the seriousness of the offending. Possessing a firearm without a licence now has a penalty of up to one year in prison or a $15,000 fine
- Additional high-risk firearms, such as semi-automatic pistols and rifles, are now prohibited
- Endorsements can be obtained to possess prohibited firearms where these are needed for pest control purposes. However the term of the licence is shorter and must be renewed before the licence expires, and
- People who come to New Zealand who are issued a licence for up to a year will no longer be able to purchase and take ownership of a firearm in New Zealand.
Additional changes will follow over a three-year period, including new rules to determine who is ‘fit and proper’ to possess firearms and who will be disqualified from holding a firearms licence.
Temporary work visas
Following extensive lobbying by the rural sector, the government has announced changes to the temporary work visa process. These changes are not a permanent solution to migrant labour issues but will help farmers to retain their migrant workforce through the upcoming busy period of calving and peak milk production.
Key changes are:
- Extending temporary work visas due to expire by the end of 2020 by six months
- Delaying the start of the stand-down period by six months to February 2021 instead of August 2020, and
- Reducing the duration of all new low-skilled essential skills visas from twelve to six months for the next 18 months.
The temporary extension of existing visas and delay to the stand-down period is beneficial, but this is coupled with a reduced period for new low-skilled visas, meaning low-skilled staff will require a visa renewal every six months, including a labour market test.
New environmental legislation
The Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Act 2020 (ETR) received Royal Assent on 22 June 2020. Some of the legislation came into force immediately, other parts have rolling starts until 1 January 2024. To see the exact dates, click here.
This legislation imposes serious costs/penalties which present a challenge for farmers trying to earn their social licence to operate. In line with this, the Essential Fresh Water Package (the Freshwater NES, referred to here in this edition of Rural eSpeaking) is still to be finalised, bringing in new policies to achieve the two main objectives: to stop further degradation and to reverse past damage to waterways.
Generally, the ETR aims to provide more certainty for businesses, make the scheme more accessible and improve its administration in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
For further information on the regulations imposed by the ETR please go here.
Recommendation to repeal the RMA
Very late in July, the government-appointed panel recommended that the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) be repealed and replaced with two separate pieces of legislation.
After a comprehensive review and extensive consultation led by retired Court of Appeal Judge, Tony Randerson QC, the panel recommended that a Natural and Built Environments Act and a Strategic Planning Act replace the current legislation.
Minister for the Environment, the Hon David Parker, said, “The RMA has doubled in size from its original length. It has become too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment. It is for the next Government to consider the report, and decide which aspects to adopt and decide whether to implement it in whole or in part.”
The Minister said, however, he expected political parties would develop their policies for the upcoming general election campaign in light of the report’s findings.
To read more about the review and its recommendations, click here.