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New Zealand’s Weird and Wonderful Laws

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Every country in the world has its own collection of strange laws. New Zealand is no exception. Our country has a lot of weird laws you’d be surprised are still in effect in 2018. Some are new, some are old, but they do make you wonder how they were ever legislated in the first place. However, there are specific intentions behind some of these laws - they do make (slightly) more sense once you understand the context and values of the region. 

It’s a crime to deface a banknote

Under the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989, it’s a crime to “wilfully deface, disfigure, or mutate” bank notes. Any person who breaks this law will face a fine of up to $1,000. The idea of the law is to try and preserve paper money. In 2000, Filmmaker, Taika Waititi broke the law when he painted money as a part of an art project.

New Zealand will deny residency visas if a person’s BMI is too high

The New Zealand Immigration services require migrants to undergo a complete medical examination. This includes a body mass index (BMI) test. There have been cases where New Zealand has denied immigration to those who do not have a healthy BMI. Our country has an obesity problem and New Zealand is among the top three fattest counties in the world. The law was put in place for budgetary reasons. A spokesman for New Zealand’s immigration service said NZ’s healthcare system can’t afford to have more overweight people in the country. 

The authorities can legally confiscate your land

Auckland landowners should keep a strict eye on their land. If your land is near the Waitemata-to-Manukau harbour canal, the authorities have the right to confiscate it. This is under the 1908 Auckland and Manukau Canal Act. It can take the land “from time to time, either within or without the limits of its jurisdiction”. 

Atomic Energy laws

The 1945 Atomic Energy Act requires anyone who finds uranium in New Zealand, to report it to the government within three months. You have to report where you found the uranium also. Failing to comply is a criminal offense. Also, every high school in our country is allowed to have one pound of uranium and one pound of thorium, for conducting experiments. But if there’s ever a nuclear explosion, schools will have to pay a $1,000,000 fine.

The Whanganui River has the rights of a living person

After being officially confirmed under New Zealand law, the Whanganui River has the exact same rights as a human being. The local Maori tribe had fought for the recognition of their river for 140 years. In a world first, the river has a legal personality with all the rights and liabilities as an actual person. Harming or abusing the river is no different to harming the tribe or any other New Zealander. They’re one in the same. It’s a unique status that recognises the significance of the river to the region’s people.

So, whether you’ve got some uranium in the shed, or some land in the Waitemata-to-Manukau harbour area you’d like to keep hold of – watch out for New Zealand’s odd laws! Every country comes with their own legal quirks and New Zealand is no different.

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