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COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020

COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020

COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020

Wednesday 1 April, 2020

The COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020 (“the Act”) came into force on 26 March 2020. This is an omnibus Act that amends various legislation to put in place the necessary arrangements to implement COVID-19 Alert Level 4, or where arrangements are essential to respond effectively to the outbreak of COVID-19. Significantly for Councils, the Act makes temporary changes to the Local Government Act 2002 (“the LGA”) and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (“the LGOIMA”) to enable Councils and Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups to hold meetings and function remotely. The changes introduced by the Act will be repealed when the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 expires or is revoked. Of note, the Act does not make any changes to the Resource Management Act 1991.

The Act amends Schedule 7 of the LGA to enable a member of local authority, or of a committee of a local authority, to attend any meeting of the local authority or committee by audio or audiovisual link, regardless of what is provided for in the Council’s standing orders. The Act also enables a member of the local authority or committee attending by audio or audiovisual link to be counted as present for the purposes of a quorum.

In relation to the LGOIMA, the Act provides that where Councils would normally be required to make copies of agendas, associated reports and minutes of meetings available at their physical offices or public libraries, they can now be made available on the Council’s website. However, a member of the public can still request copies be provided by post. Finally, the Act provides that the requirements for Council meetings to be “open to the public” may be met without having to allow physical access. Instead, the Council must, if it is reasonably practicable, broadcast its meetings live and provide records of the meetings on its website.

These changes are sensible in the current climate and will only be in effect as long as the epidemic notice is in force.

 


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