4 Sep 2018

Parliament’s to do list: Earthquakes, a fishy threat and a gun ban for gangs

From The House , 6:55 pm on 4 September 2018

The Leader of the House is Parliament’s version of a white-gloved officer directing traffic.

Their task is to organise the order in which MPs will work through legislation. This Parliament (we’re up to number 52) the Leader of the House is Chris Hipkins and while we’ve never seen him wearing white gloves he does have a hand in the legislative flow.

Up this week is a bill that demands every MP agree, one on fishy threats and a couple of bills on the aftermath of an earthquake.  

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Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

MPs are required to be at Parliament for scheduled sitting days, so called because MPs sit in those green leather chairs when they’re in the debating chamber. An agenda known as the Order Paper is published online each sitting day outlining what business the House plans to get through. But plans change and time is limited so below is what they’ll try their best to get through.

Earthquake complaints (Thursday)


  • The first reading of the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal Bill

  • The Bill sets up a tribunal to help resolve insurance claims between policyholders and insurers, people with insurance and the Earthquake Commission. Claims have to relate to damage caused by the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.


  • The tribunal will aim to help solve long-standing insurance claims to help policyholders and insured people  “obtain some closure” so they can move on with their lives.

  • First readings are usually a chance to outline the bill and debate its purpose before it’s sent to a select committee for public consultation (if it passes the first reading).

Getting rid of Pacific tariffs (Tuesday, Thursday)


  • The second and third reading of the Tariff (PACER Plus) Amendment Bill. The second reading will be finished off on Tuesday and third reading will be on Thursday if all goes to plan.

  • This bill adds Pacer Plus Partners to the list of partners for preferential tariffs in NZ’s Tariff legislation. This is one of the things required by the PACER Plus agreement.

  • PACER Plus is a trade agreement with 11 Pacific countries (Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.) Full text of the agreement is available here.


  • This is New Zealand’s first reciprocal agreement with the wider Pacific, where the majority of countries are not WTO (World Trade Organisation) members and so are not restricted by the size of tariffs they can apply to trade. The agreement plans to eliminate tariffs across 25-35 years.

  • Currently NZ exports to these countries attract about $24 million in tariffs annually.

Proof politicians don’t always disagree (Tuesday)



  • This type of bill is a way of making non-controversial changes to legislation like fixing a drafting error. By convention any objection to a change means that proposal is struck out and would have to be put through as a bill on its own. So all MPs need to agree.

  • Doing more than one stage of a bill in a day is usually against the rules but Parliament can do things differently if it likes. This in one of those times where the Business Committee decided things could be done a little quicker.

Fishy threats (Tuesday)


Disaster building powers (Tuesday)


  • The first reading of the Building Amendment Bill

  • The Bill proposes two new sets of powers for the government manage buildings after a disaster, and to investigate buildings that ‘fail’.


  • The Christchurch and Kaikoura Earthquakes highlighted gaps in government’s powers to deal with the aftermath of when the earth goes bang. This bill seeks to remedy that, including: giving the government more power to investigate buildings that ‘fail’ (like the CTV building in Christchurch for example); to inspect, notify, evacuate, demolish, etc. The powers have time limits.

General Debate (every Wednesday after question time, about 3pm)


  • Twelve speeches of up to five minutes in length after question time on Wednesdays in the House. Speeches are divvied up proportionally so bigger parties get more speeches. Because Ministers aren’t counted in the proportional divvy-up, the opposition side of the House gets more speeches than the government side.


  • The general debate is a chance for MPs to bring up issues that would otherwise not come up before the House, making it a wide-ranging debate. Sometimes parties take a coordinated approach and speak on the same issue but there’s no rule that they have to.

Member’s Day (Wednesday)

Every alternate Wednesday in the House at about 4pm, time is devoted to bills by members who are not ministers (like Opposition MPs and backbenchers). They’re called member’s bills and have slightly less time spent on their debates than other legislation. A bunch of member’s bills are up for their first reading debates this week including:

To Rohe o Te Wairoa claims settlement (Thursday)


  • Iwi and Hapū of Te Rohe o Te Wairoa Claims Settlement Bill will have its committee stage and third reading.

  • It will give effect to the Deed of Settlement in which the Crown and the iwi and hapū of Te Rohe o Te Wairoa agree to a final settlement of all historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, for example: “ outstanding historical claims against the Crown include the loss of the vast majority of their rohe and intense military campaigns resulting in the loss of life, land, and possessions.”


  • Settlement bills aim to resolve historical claims by Māori against the crown for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi before 1992.

  • The Treaty, which was signed in 1840, gave sovereignty to the British Crown, allowed Māori to keep rangatiratanga (chieftainship) over their resources while giving the Crown first dibs on any land up for sale, and granted Māori the same rights as British citizens.

  • Settlements include some redress to set things right which can be cultural, commercial, or financial. Once a settlement is reached it becomes law.

You can see how much the House gets done each sitting day by going here: Daily progress in the House