Background to the Plant Variety Rights Act review
This page provides background to the current review of the Plant Variety Act 1987.
About the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987
The Plant Variety Rights Act (PVR Act) was passed in 1987 to bring New Zealand’s PVR regime into line with the 1978 version of the International Convention on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention).
The UPOV Convention is the principal international agreement relating to intellectual property protection over plant varieties.
The PVR Act is now over 30 years old and has only had minor amendments since it was first passed. In addition, a new version of the UPOV Convention strengthening plant breeders’ rights was agreed in 1991 (UPOV 91). The majority of our main trading partners (including Australia, the United States of America, Japan, the European Union and Canada) are members of UPOV 91.
Aligning with UPOV 91 may encourage investment in New Zealand’s plant breeding industry, as well as the importation of new varieties into New Zealand. However, strengthening plant breeders’ rights needs to be balanced against the interests of farmers/growers, Māori, consumers and other interested groups, to achieve a net benefit to New Zealand as a whole.
Review of the Act began in 1990s
A review of the PVR Act began in the late 1990s. It mainly focused on the issue of whether New Zealand should accede to UPOV 91. However this was put on hold in anticipation of the release of the Waitangi Tribunal’s report on the Wai 262 inquiry (Wai 262).
Reviewing the PVR Act was then further delayed because of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations. This was because a requirement to accede to UPOV 91 was being negotiated.
Current review began in 2017
In 2017, the current review of the PVR Act was launched. It was agreed that consideration of the Wai 262 recommendations on the PVR regime would form part of the review.
Following the withdrawal of the United States from the TPP, on 8 March 2018 the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was signed. This retains the obligations relating to UPOV 91 that were negotiated in the TPP.
These require New Zealand to either accede to UPOV 91 or implement a PVR regime that gives effect to UPOV 91 by 30 December 2021, three years from when the CPTPP came into force in New Zealand.
When implementing either option, the Crown can adopt measures it deems necessary to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.
As a result, UPOV 91 and the Wai 262 report have strongly informed our approach to the current review.
Some redactions have been made under the Official Information Act 1982.
Current review to date
We began the review of the Act in February 2017 with 2 rounds of targeted, technical workshops with industry experts and Māori with expertise in plant variety rights and intellectual property. The workshops helped refine our understanding of the issues in the PVR regime. In our second workshop with Māori, we also discussed how to best engage with Māori on the review.
This pre-consultation engagement contributed to the development of the Issues paper and Māori engagement plan for the Issues stage. The Issues stage focused on issues with the PVR regime, and the Māori engagement plan set out our planned engagement with Māori throughout the review. Consultation on the Issues paper closed in December 2018.
On 9 July 2019 we released an Options paper for consultation which set out options for change to the PVR regime. Submissions closed on 9 September 2019.
On 18 November 2019 Cabinet agreed to make change to the PVR Act. These changes give effect to our obligations under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Treaty of Waitangi.
While work toward drafting the Bill has commenced, there remain a number of issues that require further consideration and consultation. As the Government focuses on responding to COVID-19, consultation on these issues will take place later this year.