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Bill to protect people with a disability passes third reading

Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki District Court (Protection of Judgment Debtors with Disabilities) Amendment Bill
Labour MP Anahila Kanongataá-Suisuiki is driving the Bill, which passed its third reading this week.

This week New Zealand Parliament passed the District Court (Protection of Judgment Debtors with Disabilities) Amendment Bill.

The Member’s Bill, led by Labour’s Anahila Kanongataá-Suisuiki, prohibits the seizure of goods from a judgment debtor with a disability where the item proposed to be seized is necessary for the judgment debtor’s care, support, or independence.

The current law did not clearly prohibit Bailiff’s from seizing property that people with a disability rely on, such as mobility devices or property, or that belonged to someone who provided care for

Kanongata’a-Suisuiki made the decision to sponsor the Amendment Bill in 2019 after visiting Community Law South Auckland, where Senior Solicitor Soane Foliaki shared the story of Una Tanginoa and urged the member to help correct this gap in the law.

Tanginoa, who lives with a disability, was a judgement debtor who had his mobility van seized by a Bailiff. Without his mobility vehicle, Tanginoa, an Invalids beneficiary, could not afford the mobility taxi or have the appropriate transportation to attend critical medical appointments.

This resulted in an infection, and he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit requiring surgery.

Mr Foliaki made the comparison “that a Tradesperson has their tools of their trade protected by law, however a disabled person was left to ‘the good judgement of the Bailiff”.

“What was clear from this unfortunate incident was that good judgement or common sense failed Mr Tanginoa and why more protection for people with a disability is needed to be legislated,” said Kanongata’a-Suisuiki.

The Bill received input from Disabled Persons Assembly New Zealand and Disability Connect, organisations that strongly support the Amendment.

“The loss of equipment, vehicles or technology essential to the daily lives of disabled people and their families, no matter how brief, is debilitating, dehumanising and in some circumstances life
threatening. Recovery from the setback of not being able to access healthcare, supports or respite care takes much longer for disabled people and can be a trigger for long term dependency,” said Disability Connect CEO Mike Potter.

“I am grateful for the protection this legislation offers vulnerable children and adults from being further disabled by the impact of financial difficulties.”

Kanongata’a-Suisuiki was clearly emotional as she spoke in Parliament.

“I was okay until I stood up… The mafana just took over. It’s a real Honour to be able to change the law to benefit a lot of people. ‘Oku ou lau koe koloa ‘ae ngaahi fatongia kotoa ‘oku ou ma’u keu tauhi he taimi ‘oku ou ‘i heni ai.”

The bill will come into force the day after it receives Royal Assent.

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