30 Jul 2019

Death, drugs, and reconciliation

From The House , 6:55 pm on 30 July 2019

Heaps of things go through the debating chamber in a sitting week but not everyone has a spare 17 hours to watch it all so we’ve picked the top three bills to pay attention to this week.

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Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

In brief:


Death - the End of Life Choice Bill

On Wednesday the End of Life Choice Bill will be back for its second to last stage in the House, which is also the last chance to make changes.

The bill will enable terminally ill people to choose to legally end their lives.

It won’t start till late in the evening, will be focused on the details of the bill (clauses and parts), and MPs will vote according to their conscience instead of as a party block. Watch it live on Parliament's website


Drugs - The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill

This bill does three things: It will classify two synthetic cannabinoids as class A drugs (very high risk of harm).

It will emphasise considering whether a therapeutic option (like rehab) might be better than prosecution when dealing with crimes of possession or personal use.

Lastly it will enable “temporary drug class orders” to be issued because classifying substances in a bill like this can take some time and legislation often fails to keep pace with the development of new drugs. 

This bill’s second reading debate will be first up after question time on Tuesday.


Reconciliation - Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka / Parihaka Reconciliation Bill

Parihaka is a small rural community in South Taranaki which was the centre of non-violent protest against the large-scale land confiscations that took place in Taranaki in the mid-1860s.

In 2017 the Crown formally apologised to the people of Parihaka for the Crown troops sacking of the settlement in which men were jailed without trial in the South Island and the women who were left behind were raped.

This bill includes some parts of the apology that need to be legislated and also recommends protecting the name from commercial exploitation. Tune in Thursday after question time for this one.

In more detail:

End of Life Choice Bill

ACT Party leader David Seymour speaks to media before heading in to the chamber on the day his End of Life Choice bill is scheduled to have its second reading debate.

ACT Party leader David Seymour is in charge of this bill. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

This legislation has been many years in the making and the topic of many heated debates in and out of the debating chamber.

It’s further complicated by the fact it’s a member’s bill, that the votes are personal/conscience instead of by party, and it’s likely to have a lot of suggested changes thrown at it which will draw out its time in the House even further.

What does it do? 

  • In its current form (more on that below) it will allow people to request assisted dying if they have a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

  • There are restrictions on who can request it including that the person be 18 or over, a NZ citizen/permanent resident, and is likely to die from an illness within 6 months.


  • This bill's sponsor is ACT Party leader David Seymour.

What’s happening this week?

  • Bills go through many stages in the House and this bill is at the stage called the Committee of the Whole House. This is when MPs debate the specifics of the bill to make sure it will be able to do what it promises.

  • It’s also the last chance to make any changes which are referred to as SOPs (Supplementary Order Papers). The controversial nature of this bill means there will be quite a few SOPs to deal with including a hefty one from David Seymour which will include changes he's agreed to make in exchange for more support for the bill. More detail on how this debate will work can be found here

  • Unlike other parts of the House, the committee stage doesn't have a time limit, it keeps going until the job is done and MPs have the opportunity to make multiple speeches. The chair keeps track of speeches and will move the debate on if it gets repetitive.

Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill

David Clark

Minister of Health David Clark is in charge of this bill Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Government called this bill a “crackdown on synthetic drug dealers” while the Opposition says it’s “de facto decriminalisation of all drug possession”.

The intention for the bill is to reduce the harm caused by drugs like synthetics (e.g. synthetic cannabis).

It will do that by making three changes:

  • classify AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as Class A drugs

  • affirm the existing discretion to prosecute for possession and use of all drugs

  • and enable temporary drug class orders to be issued for emerging and potentially harmful substances

De-facto decriminalisation
It’s the second one that has the Opposition concerned. The bill will specify that police should consider a therapeutic approach might be better instead of straight to prosecution for possession or personal use - for all drugs.

This approach was adopted in Portugal when it reformed its drug law in 2001.

This health-based approach is related to the confidence and supply agreement the Labour Party has with the Green Party where they agreed to ‘increase funding for alcohol and drug addiction services and ensure drug use is treated as a health issue.”

The report of the Health Committee (which was unable to agree that the bill should be passed) can be read here. It includes a minority view from the National Party which does not support the changes.

Cracking down on drug dealers

Passing legislation can take some time so the bill will Creating a temporary drug classification category, (C1) which would allow for a quick response to a rapidly adapting synthetic drug market, as substances could instantly be treated as Class C controlled drugs.”

The hope is that this will disrupt the supply and availability of harmful substances.

Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka / Parihaka Reconciliation Bill

This is a bill to apologise and amend historic actions of the Crown.

Armed Constabulary units at Parihaka, 1881

Armed Constabulary units at Parihaka, 1881 Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library, Parihaka Album Reference: PA1-q-183-19

What happened?

Founded in the 1860s, Parihaka attracted dispossessed and disillusioned Maori and came to symbolise non-violent protests against the confiscation of land. 

In 1881, around 1500 colonial troops invaded the settlement of Parihaka where they seized around three million acres of land, raped and assaulted women, and imprisoned two prominent Māori chiefs, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi.

Most historical Treaty of Waitangi claims have been settled and the Crown apologised in 2017

This bill is part of the reconciliation process and records elements of Te Kawenata ō Rongo, the deed of reconciliation signed on 9 June 2017. It also lists other initiatives like the Parihaka-Crown Leaders Forum and the Parihaka Fund.

Protecting the name

Some submitters told the Maori Affairs Committee the names Parihaka, Tohu Kākahi, and Te Whiti ō Rongomai, the history of Parihaka, and its legacy should be protected.

The Committee said it’s been told there are limits to protecting the names of the prophets of history but it can recommend protecting the Parihaka name.

It recommends “inserting clause 3B to protect against the commercial exploitation of the name Parihaka (including registration of trademarks and company names, and other uses in trade) without the authorisation of the PPT.”

For a list of bills the House is going to consider see the Order Paper here.