COVID-19: Human Rights Commission wants assurance traffic light system will be fully scrutinised

The Human Rights Commission is seeking assurance legislation for the COVID-19 'traffic light system' will be fully scrutinised.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt is greatly concerned at the urgency used to pass the Bill before December 3 - when the traffic light system will start being used throughout New Zealand.

Hunt says because the traffic light system will bypass a Parliamentary Select Committee, it omits Parliament and the public's ability to review and address human rights implications and Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

The Commission wants the Bill to go to a Select Committee as soon as it is passed and for the public to be able to have their say.

"Balances have to be struck between human rights. This complex but essential exercise comes into sharp focus during a pandemic where measures that protect the rights to health and life must be balanced against other rights, such as the right to work and a decent standard of living," Hunt said in a statement.

"In times of national emergency, there is a risk of overreach when sweeping powers are granted and rights are not balanced appropriately leading to mistakes that are later regretted. This is precisely when our national and international human rights and Tiriti commitments must be taken into account.

Paul Hunt.
Paul Hunt. Photo credit: File

"This cannot be done without Parliamentary scrutiny and public input."

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country will scrap alert levels and move to the COVID-19 Protection Framework or 'traffic light system' next week.

The system means Auckland can emerge from months of lockdown but COVID-19 vaccine certificates will be needed to access hospitality venues, gyms, events and other close-contact businesses.

Auckland will begin at the 'red' setting and Ardern on Monday will announce at what levels other regions will begin.

Read more about the traffic light system here.