31 Mar 2020

Covid-19: State of Emergency extended by 7 days

2:55 pm on 31 March 2020

The State of National Emergency, which gives Civil Defence, police and government extra powers, has been extended for another seven days.

Civil Defence national director Sarah Stuart-Black.

Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management Sarah Stuart-Black. Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

It was put in place on Wednesday last week as New Zealand prepared to go into a Level Four alert and can be extended as many times as necessary.

The seven-day extension means the State of National Emergency will now last until at least 12.21pm on Wednesday 8 April.

The State of Emergency is different from the four-week lockdown New Zealand is currently in. The length of the lockdown is still four weeks at this stage.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) supports Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups in their planning and operations.

NEMA is in charge in a State of National Emergency. CDEM says these types of emergencies are rare.

Last week, CDEM director Sarah Stuart-Black said powers under a national state of emergency would enable the agency to:

  • Close or restrict access to roads or public places
  • Remove or secure dangerous structures or materials
  • Provide rescue, first aid, food, shelte
  • Conserve essential supplies, regulate traffic
  • Dispose of fatalities in terms of people that have passed away or animals
  • Enter into premises to rescue people or save lives
  • Evacuate premises or places, remove vehicles and vessels, requisition equipment and materials and assistance

New Zealand police are responsible for the maintenance of law and order during a state of national emergency and are also granted special powers to order any person to stop any activity that contributes to the emergency.

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare said extending it ensured the government had all the powers needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Each week, Stuart-Black will provide the minister with advice on whether the State of National Emergency should be extended again.

After the annoucement, a legal expert called for clearer rules of how emergency discretionary powers should be applied.

Victoria University's associate law professor Dean Knight said that with so much discretionary power, there was a risk that discretion could be used in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.

Dr Knight said some people had been unclear about the signals they were getting from the Government.

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