Fines, prison and loss of property - What the Government could do if you break quarantine

A law expert says the Government will have more power than ever amid the coronavirus lockdown.


University of Waikato law professor Al Gillespie told Magic Talk on Tuesday Kiwis can expect two new laws in the face of the pandemic.

"You've got a state of emergency through Civil Defence, and an Epidemic Notice," he said.

By invoking the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 and issuing an epidemic notice, the Government will have the power to change and amend existing law in response to the pandemic.

The Civil Defence Emergency Act 2002 will also give the Government the power to fight the pandemic. The Act ranges from privileges of chief medical officers, to rationing drinking water, to punishing people who break quarantine. 

"The powers that the Government has are greater than what was used in World War 1 or 2," said Gillespie.

He says Kiwis should not fear the law, as it's well protected.

"[There are] lots of checks and balances in the law to make sure it's working as necessary, but the more serious the threat the more power [the Government] gets."

He says the Government will be able to penalise people who break quarantine orders, especially if the pandemic worsens.

"You could be fined or imprisoned," he said. 

"There will be the option for them to take property, control roads and other civil infrastructure if necessary."

He says some Kiwis may be familiar with the aspects of how the laws will work.

"New Zealanders are familiar with states of emergency - but these are usually in response to natural disasters. Older generations might also remember some of these things from WWII - but in those times, lockdown procedures were just for aliens, not citizens.

"Now it's everyone."

New Zealand will enter a four week near-total lockdown on Wednesday. All non-essential businesses will close, and people are urged to remain in their homes to stop the spread of COVID-19.

There are currently 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the country.