Key border health/ quarantine provisions in Parts 3 and 4 of the Health Act

The core border health provisions in New Zealand legislation are contained in Parts 3 and 4 of the Health Act 1956 (plus some regulations made under the Act).

The provisions are set out in detail in the Summary of Border Health Legislation. A summary of some of the key provisions is provided below.

Routine powers

Routine powers are those available to medical officers of health and health protection officers without prior approval, as long as they follow the requirements of the Act. Key routine powers include:

  • The power to enter premises (including boarding an aircraft or ship). This may be exercised at any reasonable time if a health officer has reason to believe that there is, or recently has been, any person with or recently exposed to a notifiable infectious disease (s. 77 HA).
  • The power to examine. This allows a health officers to medically examine any person on a premises – including on an aircraft or ship – where someone is believed to have or recently have had the disease, in order to determine whether that person has the disease (s. 77 HA).
  • The power to detain for isolation purposes. This allows a health officer to make an order to remove a person to hospital or other suitable place for isolation, if the officer has reason to believe or suspect that the person is likely to cause the spread of infectious disease (s. 79 HA). The power can be used for both ‘cases’ (sick people) and ‘contacts’ (people who may have been exposed, but may never actually develop any symptoms).
  • The power to prescribe medical treatment. This allows a health officer to prescribe preventive treatment to any person considered likely to cause the spread of an infectious disease. Such a person can be detained until they have undergone the prescribed treatment (s. 79 HA). This section does not authorise a person to be compulsorily given preventive treatment.
  • Powers under the Health (Infectious and Notifiable Diseases) Regulations 1966. These provide legislative backup to encourage cooperation in contact tracing and other measures, such as excluding children and teachers from school for defined periods if they are suffering from a notifiable disease or have been exposed to someone with the disease.

Quarantine powers

There is also a range of powers under the Act that are specifically focused on quarantine (see Part 4, ss 94–112AA). These cover:

  • The craft and people liable to quarantine
  • Powers to require information or give directions
  • Powers around boarding or detaining ships/aircraft or taking things from such craft
  • Powers covering inspection of craft
  • Powers around examining people or requiring bodily samples
  • Powers around placing people liable to quarantine under observation or surveillance
  • Contact tracing
  • Detention, isolation or quarantine
  • Measures to cleanse, fumigate or disinfect craft, infected baggage and other cargo.

Special powers

Special powers (for a medical officer of health) generally need prior authorisation before they can be used. Such authorisation must come from one of:

  • The Minister of Health
  • An epidemic notice having been issued by the Prime Minister under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006
  • A state of emergency having been declared under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002.

Some of the key special powers in the Health Act 1956 include:

  • The power to examine, for the purpose of controlling infectious disease. This gives a medical officer of health the authority to require people to report for or submit to medical testing (ss. 70(1)(e) and (ea) HA).
  • The power to detain, isolate or quarantine. This allows a medical officer of health to require people and objects such as ships, aircraft or cargo to be isolated, quarantined, or disinfected (s. 70(1)(f) HA).
  • The power to prescribe preventive treatment. This allows a medical officer of health to require any person who has been isolated or quarantined to remain where they are until they have been medically examined and found to be free from infectious disease, and until they have undergone such preventive treatment as the officer prescribes (s. 70(1)(h) HA).
  • The power to requisition premises. This allows a medical officer of health to requisition premises and vehicles for the accommodation, treatment, and transport of patients (s. 71(1) HA).
  • The power to close premises such as schools (ss. 70(1)(1a) and 70(1)(m) HA).

Compulsory health measures

Some border health measures may involve an element of compulsion (ie, an action being undertaken even if against a person’s will). Such measures need to be authorised by statute or else they are likely to be unlawful and contrary to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Compulsory measures could include:

  • Requirements for people to be tested and screened
  • Quarantining or isolating people
  • Restricting the movement of people into or out of an area
  • Restricting travel of people (within or out of New Zealand)
  • Imposing a duty to supply information (eg, future travel plans or past travel history)
  • Placing requirements on people to undergo preventive treatment
  • Placing requirements on people not to go to work or other public places, or to do so only under certain conditions
  • Commandeering of resources (eg, land, buildings or vehicles).
Back to top