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Strict civil liability and civil penalties regime

Strict civil liability and a civil penalties regime included in changes

Government proposals for changes to legislation governing new organisms (including genetically modified organisms) include amendments to the HSNO Act to impose both a strict civil liability and civil penalties regime in cases where an activity breaches the law, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said.

The strict civil liability amendments would cover cases where, for example, the necessary Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) approvals had not been obtained or where conditions imposed by ERMA as part of approval had deliberately not been complied with. In these cases, persons who have been harmed as a result of the breach would not have to prove negligence to be awarded compensation.

"This is designed to encourage people to comply with the law, and to improve the availability of compensation for anyone who has suffered harm because someone else has broken the law," the minister said.

Defences will be available for this strict civil liability rule similar to those already contained in the Act.

The amendments to introduce a civil penalties regime would enable the State to take a civil prosecution or impose a fine for breaching the HSNO Act, whether or not the breach had resulted in any harm to individuals, the environment or to public safety. Similar to other legislation (such as the Commerce Act) the maximum penalty levels will be large to act as a deterrent to discourage non-compliance.

"The government is committed to a robust regulatory mechanism, and part of this is having law that people comply with," Marian Hobbs said. "These changes to the liability regime under the HSNO Act are designed to secure compliance with that Act, thereby protecting the health of New Zealanders and their environment."

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