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Tuesday 24 October 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Health, National


New Public Health Bill to be  tabled in Parliament in Dec
Te Marae Ora health protection officer, Tuku Marsters of Penrhyn. TMO/23101201

The new Public Health Bill which will give Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health the power to issue monetary fines and regulate smoking and vaping, among other things, will be going through Parliament in December.

The new regulations will replace the existing Public Health Act 2004.

Te Marae Ora’s director oral health, Dr Danny Areai, speaking in his capacity as the acting Secretary for Health, said the Bill will be tabled in Parliament during the December sitting.

The provisions under the new Public Health Bill include prevention and promotion, addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and reducing health inequities.

According to a TMO document, the new Act will repeal specific provisions dealing with mosquitoes and other vectors and manage their public health risks through the “outcomes approach”. Persons whose actions encourage the breeding of (mosquito) populations will be in breach of their general duty under the new Act, and a “clean up” notice will be issued.

Guidelines can be prepared to assist people with compliance and eradication obligations. This also includes:

  • Human rights principles and safeguards will be incorporated into the new Act through the objectives and decision-making processes. This will include principles and processes to ensure public health measures are necessary, proportionate and no more restrictive than required.
  • The new Act will look to streamline and align the powers of officials with respect to public health laws as much as possible. This may require some consequential amendments to other laws to ensure alignment.
  • The new Act will provide for more intermediate measures including the use of warnings and cautions, which are also available under the Ministry of Health Act. It will also allow regulations to be made implementing “spot fines” once systems and capacity are in place to effectively implement this.
  • New Act will outline functions and powers of the Health Minister, Secretary, Public Health Officers/Authorised Officers, Medical Officer of Health and Island Governments and looks to strengthen compliance such as implementation plan to train and build capacity of officials, streamline powers, spot fines and visual authority.

The Public Health Bill will also include regulations to address vaping and smoking in the Cook Islands.

Secretary of Health Bob Williams earlier told Cook Islands News that there are plans in place, but this will have to wait until the new Public Health Bill is enacted by Parliament which will allow the development of regulations to address vaping and smoking in the country.

Meanwhile, the Tutaka programme began yesterday in Rarotonga and will run until November 3.

The Tutaka programme is a community initiative where TMO works with the community for the purpose or mitigating possible vector borne outbreaks by cleaning mosquito breeding bushes – an initiative to keep the island and communities clean.

Dr Areai said: “While we have the ability to penalise/fine people by law our preference is work together in collaboration with individuals and businesses to comply in the first instance. When negotiations break down is when we incur the law.”

TMO advises the public to destroy mosquito breeding sites and resting grounds, move pigs away from homes and food preparation areas must be kept clean at all times. Also public is advised to cut and clear overgrown vegetation surrounding their homes, ensure to keep their homes clean and tidy free of poor hygiene and unwanted pests must be kept away from homes.