Let's talk about bylaws

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Bylaws are rules made by local councils which affect the way we live, work and play. Bylaws are there to make our district a safe and healthy place.

Council has 18 bylaws that apply in the Far North District. Check out the information below to learn what bylaws are, how they're made, and why we have them. You can also share your feedback on bylaws that we are currently consulting on. 

A council can only make a bylaw if it has been empowered by an act of Parliament to do so. Most bylaws are made under the Local Government Act 2002. Other acts, such as the Land Transport Act 1998 and the Health Act 1956, also give councils powers to make bylaws.

Why do we need bylaws?

Bylaws are local laws that are relevant to communities and suited to local conditions. They deal with things that aren't suitable to be controlled in laws that are made by Parliament because of their local nature. Generally, bylaws are made to:

  • protect the public from nuisance
  • protect, promote, and maintain public health and safety
  • minimise the potential for offensive behaviour in public places. 

Bylaws are the rules councils use to keep communities safe and healthy.

What's the difference between a bylaw and a policy?

Bylaws have a regulatory effect, they are a type of law. Doing something that breaches a bylaw is an offence. 

Policies generally are more like guidelines for how a council does things or decisions that they make. 

How are bylaws made?

Making a bylaw is not a quick process. It usually takes approximately two years to develop and make a bylaw. The process starts when an issue or problem has been brought to the attention of a council. A council cannot create bylaws for just any reason, there must be a clearly defined problem that needs to be addressed. The problem must then be thoroughly researched to determine if a) it comes under a council's jurisdiction, and b) a bylaw is the best way to deal with the issue. 

The process includes a lot of research on the problem, analysis of the costs versus the benefits, and investigating possible options to address the problems. This involves Council staff, elected members, legal advice, and public consultation. 

How are bylaws enforced?

Bylaws can be enforced by Council staff or other agencies such as New Zealand Police. Not complying with a bylaw is a criminal offence. If a bylaw is breached, consequences can include fines, prosecution, seizure of property, or other remedial action.

Far North District Council staff have an operational motto of “Education before Enforcement”. This means our staff take the approach of engaging with our customers in the first instance to educate them and provide an opportunity to be voluntarily compliant. Only taking the appropriate enforcement action if necessary.

When are bylaws reviewed?

Bylaws are reviewed either:

(a) when a council has new information about the matter covered in a bylaw, or there is a change in legislation, that could mean the bylaw is no longer addressing the problem

(b) at intervals required in the Act the bylaw was made under. Bylaws made under the Local Government Act 2002 must be reviewed five years after they were first made and then every ten years after that.

The process to review a bylaw is the same as the process to make a new bylaw. The only difference is the time taken may be less if, for example, the review shows the bylaw does not need to be changed.

When do I get to have my say on new or amended bylaws?

The community will be asked for feedback on all draft bylaws before they are made. This includes an opportunity to present your views to elected members in person. Take a look at our Significance and Engagement Policy for more on this.

As part of a council's research to determine whether a bylaw is necessary, the community may be asked for their input before a bylaw is drafted. This may be through a survey, through reaching out to specific groups identified as being directly affected by the problem, or other methods.

If research finds that a bylaw is the best way to address the problem, then council staff will create a draft bylaw. The draft bylaw will be assessed for legal approval and then will receive endorsement from elected members to take it to public consultation. This is the opportunity for you to formally have your say on the proposed bylaw. You will have at least four weeks to share your feedback.

All feedback is analysed and a public report is presented to the decision makers.

So what bylaws can I have my say on at the moment?

We are currently consulting on the below bylaws and encourage you to give us your feedback. Email submissions@fndc.govt.nz if you have any questions about any of our current or closed consultations. Check out our Have your say page for all of our consultations.