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
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
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.