The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


TITLE:  NEW ZEALAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                          
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994

                        NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy, with executive 
authority vested in a 23-member cabinet led by a prime 
minister.  The 99 members of the unicameral legislature include 
4 whose seats are reserved for election by persons from the 
native Maori minority population who wish to be included on a 
separate electoral roll.

Approximately 12 percent of New Zealand's population of 
3,427,000 consider themselves Maori.  Immigrants from Europe, 
Asia, and Pacific islands leaven a population of primarily 
British descent.  The rights of Maori have received increasing 
public attention in recent years.

Niue and the Cook Islands are self-governing countries in free 
association with New Zealand.  The island group of Tokelau is 
administered by New Zealand with limited but growing 
self-government.  Inhabitants of all three hold New Zealand 
citizenship and are entitled to New Zealand passports.  Local 
law in the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau is compatible with 
New Zealand and British common law.  New Zealand's police and 
defense forces are responsible to and firmly controlled by 
civilian officials.

New Zealand is one of the world's most efficient producers of 
agricultural products.  The mainstay of its economy is the 
export of wool, meat, and dairy products.  A small but 
expanding manufacturing sector is engaged primarily in food 
processing, metal fabrication, and the production of wood and 
paper products.  Niche industries are developing in such high 
technology sectors as software production.  Recent structural 
reforms have transformed New Zealand from one of the world's 
most protected economies to one based on free enterprise.  
Disparities in wealth are very small (though increasing), and 
most New Zealanders have a comfortable standard of living.

New Zealanders enjoy a wide range of freedoms, and human rights 
are respected and protected in law and in practice.  Minority 
rights are given special legislative protection, and provision 
is made for the economically deprived.


Section 1  Respect for The Integrity of The Person, Including 
           Freedom from

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Such killings do not occur.

     b.  Disappearance

There have been no instances of politically motivated 

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

New Zealand law prohibits torture and other forms of 
mistreatment, and these prohibitions are respected in practice.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile is 
respected.  The law provides for the writ of habeas corpus and 
requires that persons arrested be charged promptly.  The court 
provides legal aid to those who cannot afford to pay for a 
private attorney.  Preventive detention is prohibited.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The New Zealand judicial system is based on British common 
law.  A three-tiered, independent, and impartial judiciary 
assures a prompt and fair public trial.  Final appeal in some 
instances may be made to the Privy Council in London, although 
this is rarely invoked.  The rights of the accused are 
carefully observed and subject to public scrutiny.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The right to privacy is protected by law.  The Government does 
not violate a person's privacy, the sanctity of the home, or 
the integrity of correspondence.  The office of Privacy 
Commissioner hears complaints involving violation of personal 
privacy by individuals or the Government.  The Privacy 
Commissioner is a statutory member of the Human Rights 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedoms of speech and press are provided for in law and 
respected in practice.  Several hundred newspapers and 
magazines are published reflecting a wide spectrum of political 
and social thought.  Numerous state and privately owned radio 
stations operate.  One private and two state television 
channels broadcast nationally, and international broadcasts are 
available for a fee.  The Government makes no attempt to censor 
the press, and opposition viewpoints are freely expressed.

There are no limits on academic freedom.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Rights to peaceful assembly and association are recognized in 
law and respected in practice.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

New Zealand enjoys a long tradition of religious tolerance.  
All faiths receive equal treatment under the law.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The law places no limitations on internal movement or 
resettlement, nor does it restrict foreign travel or the right 
to return.  To the extent of its resources, New Zealand accepts 
and resettles refugees and asylum seekers.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The people freely elect their government.  Two major parties, 
National and Labour, dominate the political scene and have 
formed governments chosen in triennial elections for more than 
50 years.  The law provides for universal suffrage at age 18.  
Except for the seats reserved for Maori, no restrictions based 
upon sex, creed, or national origin limit participation in the 
political process.  Women, Maori, and other minorities 
regularly serve in Parliament and the Cabinet.  Currently, of 
the 99 Members of Parliament (M.P.'s), 21 are women.  Voting 
rates are high, and participation in political groups is 
common.  Opposition groups freely voice their views and can 
influence government policies.

Responding to complaints that the current "first-past-the-post" 
electoral system, or simple majority system, unfairly 
disadvantages small parties, the Government asked voters in the 
1993 general election to determine whether to adopt 
proportional representation.  A majority of voters supported a 
change to Mixed-Member Proportional representation (MMP).  
Under this system, half of an expanded parliament will be 
elected from constituencies and half selected from party lists 
in order to achieve proportionality.  The change is likely to 
result in a larger number of parties, coalition governments, 
and a greater role for individual M.P.'s.  Proponents claim it 
will redress a situation under which a government could use an 
artificially inflated parliamentary majority to push through 
legislation that was not supported by a majority of the 
population.  Elections held after mid-1995 will be held under 

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

New Zealand has a long history of commitment to the protection 
of human rights, both at home and abroad.  Basic human rights 
are guaranteed by law and respected in practice.  A wide 
variety of international and local human rights organizations 
operate freely.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission hears complaints of 
discrimination based on sex, marital status, national or ethnic 
origin, and religious or ethical belief.  The Race Relations 
Conciliator, a statutory member of the Human Rights Commission 
but empowered under separate legislation, hears complaints 
based upon racial discrimination.  In July New Zealand enacted 
legislation that replaced and expanded the Human Rights 
Commission Act 1977 and the Race Relations Act 1971.  The Human 
Rights Act 1993 incorporates existing bans against 
discrimination on the basis of sex (including pregnancy and 
sexual harassment), marital status, religious or ethical 
belief, race, color, or ethnic or national origin.  It adds new 
bans against discrimination on the grounds of physical or 
psychological disability (including disability or impairment 
due to the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing 
illness), age, political opinion, employment status, family 
status, or sexual orientation.  Such discrimination is 
prohibited in the areas of employment, education, access to 
public places, provision of goods and services, and housing and 


The law in New Zealand addresses violence against women, 
including spousal rape, and provides for the suppression of 
victims' names.  Police coordinate effectively with the 
numerous victim support service agencies available to women, 
including women's refuges, rape crisis centers, and sexual 
abuse centers.  In August Parliament passed antipornography 
legislation banning material that promotes coerced sexual 
activity or depicts acts of extreme violence and cruelty.  The 
legislation is designed to reduce material that could lead to 
violence against women and children.  As the first country to 
grant full suffrage to women, New Zealand celebrated the 
centennial year of that decision in 1993 with a series of 
conferences and activities designed to promote a positive image 
of women.


New Zealand pays careful attention to the rights of children.  
The Commissioner for Children has submitted to the Government 
for review a broad plan of action on children's rights.  The 
1989 Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act increased 
specific safeguards for children's rights and made special 
provisions for the treatment of children by the legal system.  
The act also created the independent office of a Commissioner 
for Children to provide advocacy before the law for children 
without legal competence and to monitor compliance with and 
implementation of the act.  The Commissioner has broad powers 
of audit and inquiry into all aspects of children's rights.  

     Indigenous People

Approximately 12 percent of New Zealand's population claim at 
least one ancestor from the country's indigenous Maori or 
Morioni minorities.  Despite a legal prohibition on 
discrimination, significant portions of the indigenous 
population remain marginally educated and economically 
disadvantaged.  Maori experience high rates of infant crib 
death and child abuse and are less likely to graduate from high 
school.  A relatively high percentage of Maori are unemployed 
and receive state assistance.  Maori also figure 
disproportionately in crime statistics and among the prison 
population.  Government policy recognizes a special role for 
indigenous people and their traditional values and customs, 
including cultural and environmental attitudes that have an 
impact on issues of commercial development.  The Ministry of 
Maori Development oversees programs aimed at furthering the 
economic, social, and cultural development of the Maori 
people.  In addition, every national, regional, and local 
government agency is required by law to consult with Maori 
representatives on any decision that might affect them.

A special tribunal was empowered in 1975 to hear Maori tribal 
claims to land and other natural resources stemming from the 
1840 Treaty of Waitangi.  Progress on resolving land disputes 
was slow until recently.  The tribunal's decisions are binding 
on state-owned resources but not on private land.  A major 
agreement between the Government and Maori leaders resolving 
Maori claims to fishing rights was reached in 1992.  While not 
immune from racial tensions, New Zealand's Government and 
society put considerable effort into forging and maintaining 
mutual respect and partnership between the country's 
Anglo-Saxon majority and its indigenous Maori minority.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

While New Zealand actively protects the rights of its 
indigenous Maori minority, it has not until recently given much 
thought to the small but growing number of other ethnic 
minorities.  A recent increase in immigration from Asia has led 
to isolated incidents of discrimination and attempts by the 
Government to prevent them.  Although its official policy is 
"Biculturalism," the Government has encouraged immigration from 
Asia and portrayed in a positive light the contributions of 
immigrants from outside the European and Maori cultures.  The 
Human Rights Act 1993 outlaws material that would incite 
hostility based on color, race, or ethnic origin.

     People with Disabilities

Increasing popular attention to the problems faced by the 
disabled has led the Government to act to remove, to the 
fullest extent practical, impediments to their living normal 
lives.  In 1991-92, the Government created the Office of 
Disability Support Services to coordinate disability programs.  
The Human Rights Act of 1993 prohibits discrimination in 
employment, education, access to public places, provision of 
goods and services, housing and accommodation on the grounds of 
physical, and intellectual or psychological disability or 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

New Zealand workers have unrestricted rights to establish and 
join organizations of their own choosing and to affiliate those 
organizations with other unions and international 
organizations.  The principal labor organization, the New 
Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU), is affiliated with the 
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and 
with its subregional grouping, the South Pacific and Oceanic 
Council of Trade Unions.  A second national labor federation, 
the New Zealand Trade Union Federation (TUF), was established 
on May Day 1993.  The TUF has not affiliated with any global 
international organization, although some of its affiliates 
have retained longstanding ties with the ICFTU's international 
trade secretariats.  There are also a number of labor unions 
independent of both groups.

Labor organization is rudimentary in the New Zealand dependency 
of Tokelau (population 1,800) and in the freely associated 
state of Niue (population 2,000).  In the more populous New 
Zealand associated state of the Cook Islands (population 
18,000), most workers in the public sector, the major employer, 
belong to independent local unions inspired by New Zealand 
models.  Industrial relations in the Cook Islands are governed 
by a simplified version of older New Zealand legislation.

Unions in New Zealand are protected by law from governmental 
interference, suspension, and dissolution, and, in fact, they 
influence legislation and government policy.  Unions operate 
independently of political parties but can and do support 
parties whose policies they favor.  Unions have and freely 
exercise the right to strike.  Public sector unions, however, 
may not strike if work stoppages would threaten public safety.  
Legislation enacted in 1991 prohibits strikes designed to force 
an employer to become party to a multicompany contract.  
Workers are also barred from using secondary boycotts and 
striking to force up the minimum wage.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right of workers to organize and bargain collectively is 
provided by law and observed in practice in New Zealand and its 
dependencies.  Unions actively recruit members and engage in 
collective bargaining.  Labor market deregulation intended to 
make New Zealand more competitive internationally, which was 
initiated with the Employment Contracts Act (ECA) of 1991, 
marks a sharp break with almost a century of prounion 
industrial legislation.  The ECA ended a previous system of 
national "awards" under which a wage agreement would apply to 
all employers and employees in an industry whether or not they 
had been involved in the award negotiations.  It also banned 
compulsory membership in labor unions, abolished the official 
registration of unions, and ended requirements that unions be 
of a minimum size.  As a consequence of the act, unions now 
represent less than half of all wage earners, and no longer 
have an inherent right to represent any particular group of 
workers.  Employers are free to choose with which and with how 
many bargaining agents they negotiate.  The NZCTU has presented 
a complaint, alleging that the ECA violates freedom of 
association, which is under review by the International Labor 

Employment relationships are based on contracts negotiated 
either by individual employees or their bargaining agent, which 
may be a union, another voluntary association of workers, or a 
private consultant.

Mediation and arbitration procedures are conducted independent 
of government control.  The Employment Court hears cases 
arising from disputes over the interpretation of labor laws.  A 
less formal body, the Employment Tribunal, is available to 
handle wage disputes and assist in maintaining effective labor 
relations.  Firing an employee for union activities is grounds 
for a finding of unjustified dismissal and may result in 
reinstatement and financial compensation.  

There are no export processing zones in New Zealand, Tokelau, 
Niue, or the Cook Islands.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited in New Zealand and its 
dependencies.  Inspection and legal penalties ensure respect 
for these provisions.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children under the age of 15 may not be employed without 
special government approval and must not work between the hours 
of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.  The Department of Labour effectively 
enforces these laws.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

New Zealand provides for a 40-hour workweek, with a minimum of 
3 weeks' annual paid vacation and 11 paid public holidays.  
Under the Employment Contracts Act, however, employers and 
employees may agree to longer hours than the 40-hour per week 
standard.  In effect since December 17, 1990, the 
government-mandated minimum wage of approximately $3.30 
($NZ6.125) per hour for workers 20 years of age and older, is 
adequate for an acceptable standard of living.  Most minimum 
wage earners also receive a variety of welfare benefits.  A 
majority of the work force earns more than the minimum wage.

New Zealand has an extensive body of law and regulations 
governing health and safety issues, including a new Health and 
Safety in Employment Act which took effect in April.  Under 
this legislation, employers are obliged to provide a safe and 
healthy work environment, and employees are responsible for 
their own safety and health, including the right to remove 
themselves from dangerous or hazardous situations, as well as 
for ensuring that their actions do not harm others.  The NZCTU 
has criticized the act, however, for not providing sufficient 
employee involvement in workplace decisions affecting health 
and safety.  Under the Employment Contracts Act, workers have 
the legal right to strike over health and safety issues.  
Unions and members of the general public may file safety 
complaints on behalf of workers.  Safety and health rules are 
enforced by Department of Labour inspectors who have the power 
to shut down equipment if necessary.  The Department of Labour 
standard is to investigate reports of unsafe or unhealthy 
working conditions within 24 hours of notification.

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.