COVID-19 Public Health Response (Infringement Offences) Regulations 2021

Background

Up until November 2021 the penalty for COVID-19 infringement offences was $300. This was relatively low compared to other similar infringement regimes. For example, an individual bringing an apple into New Zealand through the air border in breach of bio-security legislation may be subject to an infringement fee of $400, yet if there was a breach the pre-departure testing requirement and risk bringing COVID-19 into the country the fee was only $300.

There was also no distinction between an individual and a body corporate (business) in the infringement regime.

What has changed

Given the social and economic consequences of high numbers of COVID-19 cases in our community, and the subsequent strain that is placed on the health system, the new penalties are designed to reflect the real risk to New Zealand.

The new Regulations set three classes of infringement fees which are based on the risk of the breach and have corresponding penalties:

  • Low risk – breaches of administrative requirements, or requirements where the worst potential outcome has a low likelihood of transmission or spread of COVID-19
  • Medium risk – breaches of requirements where the worst potential outcome is a possibility of transmitting or spreading COVID-19 or limiting the capability of the COVID-19 response. Most infringement offences will fall into this category. 
  • High risk – breaches of requirements where the risk of transmitting or spreading COVID-19 is probable.

To ensure there are appropriate infringement penalties and to deter non-compliance with Orders, the maximum infringement fee for individuals has been increased to $4,000 (currently $300), and the court-imposed infringement fine to $12,000 (currently $1,000). The infringement fee for body corporates is now up to $12,000 and a court-imposed infringement fine of $15,000.

New infringement fees

From 4 December 2021, the new Regulations introduce the following penalties for the different categories:

Penalties

Class of offence

Infringement fee for individual

Infringement fee for bodies corporate

Low risk

$500

$1500

Medium risk

$1000

$4000

High risk

$4000

$12000

Additional changes to criminal penalties

The maximum fine for a criminal conviction in section 26 of the Act has also been increased. A person can be convicted of a criminal offence under the Act if they intentionally fail to comply with a COVID-19 Order.

The penalties for criminal offences have changed in a similar manner to the infringement offences. The Amendment Act increased the maximum criminal fine for an individual (from $4,000 to $12,000) and will introduce a new maximum criminal fine for body corporates of $15,000. There is no change to the maximum prison term of 6 months.

How will this impact you?

People who do not comply with COVID-19 orders will now be subject to a higher penalty regime.

Education and encouragement to follow the rules will remain the first and best option, but infringement offences will available, as well as the criminal pathway for serious and/or intentional breaches. 

Want to know more?

From 4 December 2021, the COVID-19 Orders will state whether an offence is an infringement offence, and which class (i.e., low-risk, medium-risk, or high-risk) the offence belongs to. All COVID-19 Orders can be found here:

The Regulations can be found here:

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