Online access to law gets go-ahead

Statutes and regulations will be available online to the public after the government gave its blessing to the project.

Statutes and regulations will be available online to the public after the government gave its blessing to the project.

The Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) has been given Cabinet approval to proceed to the implementation stage of its Public Access to Law (PAL) project. This will allow complete public access through the internet to all historic and current New Zealand statutes and regulations.

The first phase of the development, covering solution identification and design, was completed last year and Unisys was named as technological partner.

Current databases on law and regulations are either partial, like the one provided by The Knowledge Basket through the NZ Government Online site which does not consolidate amendments into acts and does not provide access to bills, or are not free, such as the databases offered by Brookers and CCH.

The PAL project will provide information on the current status of bills as they pass through parliament, with the full current text and alterations, and an indication of the phase the bill has reached. So anyone can decide with good informational backing whether they want to make a submission, attend a select committee meeting or otherwise participate in the framing of the law, says PCO spokesman Anthony Baker.

By June this year, the public will have online access to an “unofficial” database of current legislation, which will be sourced from Brookers. The extra formatting involved in bringing the online legislation to a state where it can be regarded as the official version, will depend on a number of steps, starting with the PCO’s installation of its own “publication unit” in January next year to perform that refomatting in place of Legislation Direct, which does it at present.

The complete official version of legislation will take about another three years to set up, including all the retrospective material, so the service in its final form will be available in 2005 or 2006, Baker says.

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