Sun, 12 Jul 2020

New Zealand parliament returns to pre-lockdown mode

27 May 2020, 04:38 GMT+10

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The special Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) has successfully concluded its role, New Zealand's Leader of the House Chris Hipkins said Wednesday.

The committee was set up on 25 March by the agreement of Parliament to scrutinise the government and its actions while keeping people safe during levels 4 and 3 of lockdown.

"The Opposition-controlled committee served its role well and reinforced New Zealanders' confidence in our democratic system during a difficult time. It was a unique and innovative accountability mechanism and I'd like to thank Simon Bridges for his chairing," Chris Hipkins said.

"It had the freedom to call expert witnesses from all walks of life and did so over 24 meetings. Government ministers and public sector chief executives were called to account for their decisions and actions. It also examined petitions and bills related to the Covid emergency.

"Some select committees operated during lockdown and written questions continued. All committees are now able to resume full scrutiny of the Government in their subject areas, including Ministers appearing for Estimates hearings over the next month.

"With level 2 now operating, the ERC is no longer needed. As Shadow Leader of the House, National MP Gerry Brownlee, said on the decision to set up the committee, it would function during the time of a skeleton Parliament and 'fill[s] a void that would normally be occupied by question time ...'.

"That void has passed. All MPs are able to return and the House will function largely as it did pre-lockdown.

"Today the House passed a motion to disband the ERC," Chris Hipkins said.

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