23 Sep 2015

Loopy laws that drive Kiwis mad

12:10 pm on 23 September 2015

Want to give your time to a local project, but fear it could prove expensive if someone on the project falls foul of the Health and Safety rules? Fear no longer ....

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Photo: 123RF

A review of so-called 'loopy' legislation has revealed volunteers working with fellow volunteers do not have to comply with Health and Safety legislation.

For a year, the Rules Reduction Taskforce toured the country to hear Kiwis' tales of loopy rules.

These might be requirements that are out of date, inconsistent, petty, inefficient, pointless or onerous.

Its recently released The Loopy Rules Report: New Zealanders Tell Their Stories suggests Kiwis are being bound and gagged by red tape.

And these loopy rules are everywhere, enshrined in our laws, regulations, codes of practice, district plans and guidance material.

Not surprisingly, councils come in for a fair bit of criticism.

More than a quarter of people complained about the Building Act 2004 and another third complained about the Resource Management Act.

But the report also highlights some rules which are, quite frankly, simply loopy.

Examples include the owners of a bus depot without walls, who were forced to install four exit signs just in case people could not find their way out in a fire.

Another was a law, dictating what cooking appliances could be fitted in a home, was written before microwave ovens, benchtop cookers and electric fry pans were invented.

"Plainly this is out-of-step with modern-day housing trends. It should be possible to provide modern appliances that meet the intent of the Housing Improvement Regulations 1947," the report said.

It also suggested abolishing the requirement for the annual licensing of hairdressers and barbers, which is mandated under the Health Act 1956.

"Hairdressers were once the source of infection. This has not been so for fifty years. Every year local authorities have to register and inspect them," wrote one submitter.

Tattooists, nail bars and beauty parlours, meanwhile, do not have to meet the same requirements.

"We are now in 2015, and we think this is a loopy rule," the report said.

Councils also complained about the cost and complexity of removing paper roads from plans, a process known as road stopping.

"Road stopping in rural areas needs ministerial approval. Why only in rural areas as defined in the district plan, and why at all, given that there already a public objection process?

"This slows the overall process and adds additional processing and approval cost for no benefit," said one submitter.

The report suggested streamlining the process of road stopping while still ensuring appropriate public access.

The taskforce also found a number of loopy rules, which are more folklore than fact.

Myth: You can't hold a lolly-scramble any more because someone might get hurt.

Truth: Being hit by a flying lolly would not be defined as a significant hazard.

Myth: Farmers are liable if someone walking on their land trips on a tree root.

Truth: The Health and Safety Act does not apply if someone walking on a farm trail hurts themselves because the farm is not a workplace in these circumstances.

Myth: Volunteers are too scared to contribute their time for fear of being held liable if there is an accident.

Truth: Volunteers working in a volunteer-only environment do not have to comply with the Health and Safety Act. Organisations with paid employees and volunteers have the same duty to ensure the safety of volunteers as they do their paid employees.

The taskforce lists its Top 10 fixes and makes one final plea.

"We call on both central and local government to stop making more loopy rules."