Access to Subordinate Instruments Project

Chief Parliamentary Counsel David Noble has announced the “Access to Subordinate Instruments Project” or “ASIP”, which will see all tertiary instruments being made available on the New Zealand Legislation website, providing a single, official, public source for all New Zealand legislation.

David Noble

The project will be led by Richard Wallace of the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO), and is part of the PCO’s continuing programme to improve access to legislation in New Zealand and response to a directive from Cabinet to investigate a means for ensuring access to all New Zealand legislation. It also follows the PCO’s recent discussions with the Regulations Review Committee of Parliament over their inability easily to identify and track disallowable instruments that are not drafted and published by the PCO. Mr Noble noted that the PCO has already carried out initial enquiries and research concerning:

  • similar systems operated in neighbouring jurisdictions (in particular, the Commonwealth of Australia, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT));
  • drafting and publishing service and the New Zealand Legislation website for these purposes;
  • the level of financial and staffing resources needed to make these developments; and
  • the amendments that would be required to various empowering provisions across the statute book and to the relevant provisions in the Legislation Act 2012. Part of this will also seek to simplify and clarify the current terminology used to describe different types and levels of subordinate legislation.

From the initial work the PCO has already undertaken, it is clear that:

  • Reliance upon the New Zealand Gazette as the vehicle for capturing and publishing tertiary instruments is not a sensible option and does not deliver the required comprehensive, single, official source of all New Zealand legislation for the public, nor would it resolve the issues which the public and the Regulations Review Committee currently have with this category of subordinate instruments.
  • The system operated by the ACT Parliamentary Counsel Office in Canberra appears to be preferable to other models so far examined, although the scale of the task in New Zealand is significantly larger and covers a far wider spectrum of departments and agencies that prepare these “tertiary-level” subordinate instruments, including non-Crown bodies.
  • To be workable for all of those bodies, the system cannot operate using the PCO’s specialised in-house drafting and publishing tool.
  • The system the PCO develops will need to both create a “way in” to the New Zealand Legislation website’s underlying database and structure, and provide a number of simple-to-operate templates or frameworks for use by those who draft, publish, and enforce these “tertiary-level” subordinate instruments.

This will be no small task for the project team to achieve. Currently the New Zealand Legislation website provides links to more than 870 existing tertiary instruments, but there are likely to be far more than that in existence. The number and variety of tertiary instruments in New Zealand is much greater than was the case in the ACT when they developed their system.

Mr Wallace will be seeking to engage those who produce, review, and use these tertiary-level subordinate instruments in order to make sure the information technology is designed to work for:

  • the producers of tertiary instruments;
  • the users of tertiary instruments (including the general public), via the internet and printed copy; and
  • the reviewers of tertiary instruments (in particular those with the power to disallow these instruments; that is, Parliament on the recommendation of the Regulations Review Committee).

In launching this project, Mr Noble said:

“This project to capture all tertiary legislation will be the single most significant technology-assisted development of the NZL [New Zealand Legislation] drafting and publishing system and website content since we delivered the website back in 2008. We need to ensure that we can design and deliver a system that works for all producers, publishers, reviewers, and users of these instruments, and to do so having learned the lessons from the post implementation review of the Public Access to Legislation project in the early 2000s.”

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