This post was written by Cynthia O’Donoghue.

The Privacy (Giving Privacy Commissioner Necessary Tools) Amendment Bill that would have given greater powers of control to the New Zealand data protection authority, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (the DPA), has been blocked by a negative vote in New Zealand Parliament.

The draft bill proposed by the Labour opposition party states, “At the moment, enforcement of the Privacy Act 1993 is complaints-driven. People can complain to the Privacy Commissioner about breaches of their privacy rights under the Act. But the Commissioner has only limited powers to take action about breaches of the Act of its own initiative. Such a system is not well suited to addressing underlying systematic problems.”

The draft bill aimed to give the DPA broader powers to audit government authorities and issue compliance notices to ensure that personal information held by public sector bodies is not abused. The ambition is for the DPA to take a more hands-on approach to data breaches to prevent security problems in the context of a number of serious privacy breaches by government agencies recently.

The draft bill proved unsuccessful in Parliament as the ruling National Party have bigger plans for a more comprehensive reform package of New Zealand privacy law, which will address the powers of the DPA  simultaneously with wider issues covered in the Law Commission’s 2011 review of New Zealand privacy legislation (152 PRA, 8/8/11). Therefore, in spite of the negative vote, New Zealand remains committed to privacy reform.