To validate their authenticity, important documents need an oath, affirmation or declaration, to comply with legislation, or to be used as evidence in Court. Under normal circumstances, it is integral that these declarations are taken physically. With the requirements of COVID-19 Alert Levels, physical approach seems impossible.
Immediate Modification Order
Under section 15, Parliament issued an Immediate Modification Order (IMO) of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006. The purpose of this IMO was to temporarily amend the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 which sets out the requirements for making oaths, affirmations and declarations. The amendment allows oaths, affirmations and declarations to be taken and witnessed remotely using audio-visual or audio links.
Despite this fundamental change, the person taking the oath, affirmation or declaration must still ensure that the person making the affirmation:
- Has read and understood its contents and believes its contents to be true; and
- That the exhibits attached to the document are those referred to in the oath, affirmation or declaration.
This Immediate Modification Order also permits entities that get statutory declarations to authorise members of their staff to take statutory declarations instead of a lawyer, JP, Deputy Registrar in a Court or other person who would normally do it. This is due to the possible difficulty in finding someone to take statutory declarations as Court counter services are closed to the public and the temporary suspension of Justices of the Peace.
Signing Written Documents
Although not must, it would be wise for the person taking the oath, affirmation or declaration to note on the document that it was taken by audio-visual link. The person making the declaration should sign the document during the audio-visual or audio link. The signed document then must be sent to the person taking the oath, affirmation or declaration as soon as possible after the audio-visual or audio link so that they can also sign it. This can be done electronically through scanning or photograph. At Alert Levels 1-3 this could also be done through post or courier. At Alert Level 4 the document can only be posted or couriered if it is an essential “good”.
This IMO also allows the use of an audio-link such as a telephone to take oaths, affirmations or declarations. If this method is used however, precautionary measures are once again necessary to satisfy the usual requirements.
The person taking the oath, affirmation or declaration over the phone should:
- Be fully informed about the contents of the oath, affirmation or declaration;
- Read out the document(s) in full; and,
- Make sure that the person making the oath, affirmation or declaration is known to them or has some way of verifying their identity.
If you are still finding it difficult to arrange for an oath, affirmation or statutory declaration you should talk to the entity you are providing the oath, affirmation or declaration too. Some flexibility has been given to some entities to do things a little differently during COVID-19 and your circumstances might be workable. These facilities made by the IMO are based on temporary basis; once the Epidemic Notice is lifted in New Zealand the law will go back to the position prior to COVID-19.