The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov 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

flag
bar

TITLE:  NEW ZEALAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                          NEW ZEALAND


New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy, with executive 
authority vested in a 20-member cabinet led by a prime 
minister.  Four seats in the 99-member legislature are reserved 
for those persons from the native Maori minority population who 
wish to be included on a separate electoral roll.

Approximately 13 percent of New Zealand's population of 
3,541,600 consider themselves Maori.  Immigrants from the 
Pacific islands (5 percent) and Asia (2.5 percent) leaven a 
population of primarily European descent and play an important 
role in New Zealand's increasingly multicultural makeup.  The 
rights of Maori and, to a lesser extent, Asians have received 
increasing public attention in recent years.

Niue and the Cook Islands are self-governing countries in free 
association with New Zealand.  In 1994 the New Zealand island 
dependency of Tokelau informed the United Nations that it is 
contemplating an act of self-determination on the basis of free 
association with New Zealand.  Parliament is considering 
legislation which would expand the lawmaking authority of 
Tokelau's local assembly.  Inhabitants of all three areas 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 a highly efficient producer of agricultural 
products.  The mainstay of its economy is the export of wool, 
meat, and dairy products.  An 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 trade and market principles.  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 basic human 
rights are guaranteed by law and respected in practice.  
Minority rights are given special legislative protection, and 
provision is made for the economically deprived.  A new Human 
Rights Act, which took effect in February, incorporates 
existing prohibitions against discrimination, and adds new bans 
in several areas.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killing.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearance.

     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 generally respected in 
practice.  In response to allegations that prison officials had 
mistreated inmates at two jails, a police investigation was 
initiated and is still under way.  Some officials have already 
been disciplined, and several procedural reforms are being 
undertaken to prevent recurrence.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law provides for freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, 
and exile, and this is respected.  It also provides for 
judicial review of the legitimacy of arrests and requires that 
people arrested be charged promptly.  The court provides legal 
aid to those who cannot afford to pay for a private attorney.  
The law prohibits preventive detention.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The 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 authorities meticulously observe the rights of 
the accused.

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

The law protects the right to privacy.  The Government does not 
violate personal privacy, the sanctity of the home, or the 
integrity of correspondence.  The Office of the 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 
Commission.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and these are 
respected in practice.  Several hundred newspapers and 
magazines reflect 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 satellite broadcasts 
are available.  The Government makes no attempt to censor the 
press, and opposition viewpoints are freely expressed.

Academic freedom is not limited.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the rights to peaceful assembly and 
association, and these are respected in practice.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

New Zealand enjoys a long tradition of religious freedom.  The 
law treats all faiths equally.

     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.  Within the limits 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.  The law provides for 
universal suffrage at age 18.  No restrictions based upon sex, 
creed, or national origin limit participation in the political 
process.  Four seats have been reserved in Parliament for Maori 
who wish to be included on a separate electoral role.  
Currently, of the 99 members of Parliament, 21 are women, 6 are 
Maori (including the 4 reserved seats), and 1 is of Pacific 
Island origin.  Two major parties, National and Labour, 
dominate the political scene and have formed governments chosen 
in triennial elections for more than 50 years.  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 "first-past-the-post" 
electoral system, or simple majority system, unfairly 
disadvantaged small parties, the Government asked voters in a 
referendum held at the same time as the 1993 general election 
to determine whether to adopt proportional representation.  A 
majority of voters chose to adopt a form of this known as 
mixed-member-proportional representation (MMP).  Under this 
system, each voter will cast two votes: one for the local 
constituency candidate and one for a political party.  
Candidates elected by constituencies and nominees selected from 
party lists will be combined to achieve proportionality in the 
Parliament, which will be expanded to 120 seats after the first 
MMP elections are held sometime in 1995 or 1996.  The change 
resulted in the formation of several new political parties in 
1994.

Under MMP, the number of seats reserved for indigenous people 
was determined during a 2-month registration period in which 
Maori were given the option to register on either the general 
or Maori electoral roll.  Some Maori leaders accused the 
Government of providing inadequate support to the enrollment 
campaign when low registration led to Maori gaining only 5 
seats in the new 120-seat Parliament (vice 4 in the current 
99-seat house.)  In October the New Zealand High Court 
dismissed a legal challenge by three of New Zealand's main 
Maori organizations which sought to order the Government to 
conduct a new registration period with additional resources.  
The Maori groups are appealing the High Court's decision.

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

Local and international human rights organizations operate 
freely.  New Zealand allows individuals to request an 
independent U.N. Human Rights Committee investigation of 
alleged abuses of human rights.

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.  New Zealand's new Human 
Rights Act, which was enacted in 1993 and took effect in 
February 1994, replaced and expanded the Human Rights 
Commission Act of 1977 and the Race Relations Act of 1971.  The 
legislation 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.

The Act prohibits such discrimination in employment, education, 
access to public places, provision of goods and services, and 
housing and accommodation.  The New Zealand defense force ended 
its ban on homosexuals in the armed services shortly after the 
Act took effect in February.  The military's new order 
prohibits unacceptable sexual behavior, regardless of the sex 
involved.

     Women

Nationwide police data for the 12-month period ending in June 
1994 show 8,471 assaults by males on females as compared to 
5,562 in the previous reporting year.  Reported instances of 
male rape of females showed a less dramatic increase, 1,205 
compared to 1,193.  Informed observers state that these figures 
should be interpreted with caution.  They attribute much of the 
increase to a heightened level of awareness by the public and a 
greater willingness to report such abuses.

The Government actively combats violence against women in a 
number of ways, including the issuance of nonmolestation and 
nonviolence orders against abusive spouses, civil protection 
orders issued in family courts, or suit for compensation for 
some forms of negligent harm.  A crime prevention unit under 
the Prime Minister coordinates national policy on domestic 
violence.  The law penalizes spousal rape.

Victims of domestic violence may stay in one of the 50 
government-funded shelters operated by the National Collective 
of Independent Women's Refuges (NCIWR), or the half-dozen 
shelters run by church or private groups.  One nongovernmental 
organization (NGO) reported that 80 percent of women in refuges 
refuse to take out nonviolence orders either because they are 
too frightened, don't believe they will be effective, or think 
the order will further anger the spouse.

NGO's unanimously praise the police for their commitment to 
fight domestic violence, including their policy of arresting 
offenders instead of attempting mediation at the scene, their 
coordination with victim support services, and their response 
to concerns raised by refuge workers.  In March the police 
launched a nationwide campaign on spousal abuse by sponsoring a 
television documentary on domestic violence.

     Children

A 1989 law increased specific safeguards for children's rights 
and made special provisions for the treatment of children by 
the legal system, including creation of the independent office 
of the Commissioner for Children with broad powers of audit and 
inquiry into all aspects of children's rights.

The number of reports of assaults on children under age 14 rose 
from 709 in the reporting period ending June 1993 to 990 in the 
year ending June 1994.  (These figures do not differentiate 
between those committed by children and those by adults.)  
Police statistics also contain a general category of abuse 
against children, and these showed an increase from 3,144 to 
3,309.  Again, as with abuse of women, informed observers 
believe that the increase in reported abuses comes from greater 
public awareness of such abuses and a greater willingness to 
report them, and they attribute this largely to the 
effectiveness of the Government's intensified efforts to 
publicize the need to be aware of and report domestic violence.

     Indigenous People

Approximately 13 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.

In 1975 a special tribunal was empowered to hear Maori tribal 
claims to land and other natural resources stemming from the 
Treaty of Waitangi.  While major agreements between the 
Government and Maori leaders resolving Maori claims to fishing 
rights have been reached, progress on resolving land disputes 
has been slow.  In early December, the Government proposed a 
package  of around $612 million to settle all outstanding Maori 
land claims.

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.

     People with Disabilities

The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of 
physical and intellectual or psychological disability or 
impairment.  The Disabled Persons Community Welfare Act of 1976 
mandates community support, equipment, access to buildings, 
transportation to treatment centers and places of employment, 
and guidelines for modifications to workplaces and homes, and 
there are provisions in place for the delivery of these 
services.  In December the Human Rights Commission ordered 
Stagecoach Wellington, the city bus company, to cancel an order 
for 40 buses deemed insufficiently accessible to persons with 
physical disabilities.

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 these 
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).  A 
second, smaller national labor federation, the New Zealand 
Trade Union Federation (TUF), was established in 1993.  There 
are also a number of independent labor unions.

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 developed 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 Cooks are governed by a 
simplified version of older New Zealand legislation.

The law protects unions from governmental interference, 
suspension, and dissolution.  Unions, in fact, influence 
legislation and government policy.  They operate independently 
of political parties but can and do support parties whose 
policies they favor.  Some unions are affiliated with the 
opposition Labour Party.  They have and freely exercise the 
right to strike.

The law prohibits strikes designed to force an employer to 
become party to a multicompany contract.  Under the Police Act 
of 1958 and amendments, "sworn police officers," i.e., all 
uniformed and plainclothes police but excluding clerical and 
support staff, are barred from striking or taking any form of 
industrial action.  Police, however, do have freedom of 
association and the right to organize and to bargain 
collectively.  Issues which cannot be settled between the 
Police Association and management through negotiation are 
subject to compulsory, final-offer arbitration.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for the right of workers to organize and 
bargain collectively, and this is observed in practice in New 
Zealand and its dependencies.  The law prohibits uniformed 
members of the armed forces from organizing unions or 
bargaining collectively.

The Employment Contracts Act (ECA) of 1991 initiated labor 
market deregulation, intended to make New Zealand more 
competitive internationally.  This marked a sharp break with 
almost a century of prounion industrial legislation.  Under the 
ECA, unions lost their special legal status and have no 
inherent right to represent any particular group of workers.  
The Act abolished compulsory unionism, the closed shop, 
monopoly union coverage, and requirements forcing workers to 
join a particular union.  As a consequence, union membership 
plummeted.

Unions now represent fewer than half of all wage earners.  
Under the ECA, employment relationships are based on 
contracts.  Individual employees and employers may choose to 
conduct negotiations for employment contracts on their own 
behalf or may authorize any other person or organization to do 
so as their representative.  Although choosing a union as 
bargaining representative is entirely voluntary, unions have 
remained the most common agent used by workers to negotiate 
with employers.  Employers must recognize a representative 
authorized by an employee or employees.  Neither employers nor 
employees are required, however, to negotiate or to agree to an 
employment contract.  In March, pursuant to a complaint by the 
NZCTU, the Freedom of Association Committee of the 
International Labor Organization (ILO) criticized provisions in 
the ECA as contrary to ILO Convention 87 on freedom of 
association and ILO Convention 98 on the right to organize and 
to bargain collectively.  To obtain firsthand information on 
the working of the ECA, an ILO mission visited New Zealand in 
September for discussions with unions, employer 
representatives, and government officials.

The Freedom of Association Committee's final report, issued in 
November, recommended that the New Zealand Government keep it 
informed of judicial rulings on industrial relations issues, 
suggested the holding of tripartite consultations to promote 
collective bargaining, criticized only the ECA's prohibition on 
strikes to force a multiemployer contract, and offered the 
ILO's advisory services to the Government of New Zealand.  The 
Government has asked the NZCTU and the Employers Federation for 
their comments on the report, but it has rejected the ILO's 
criticism of the ban on strikes to force multiemployer 
contracts.

The Government does not control mediation and arbitration 
procedures.  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

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor in New Zealand and 
its dependencies.  Inspection and legal penalties ensure 
respect for these provisions.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Department of Labour inspectors effectively enforce a ban on 
the employment of children under age 15 in manufacturing, 
mining, and forestry.  Children under the age of 16 may not 
work between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.  In addition to 
explicit restrictions on the employment of children, New 
Zealand's system of compulsory education ensures that children 
under the minimum age for leaving school (now 16) are not 
employed during school hours.  By law children enrolled in 
school may not be employed even outside school hours if such 
employment would interfere with their education.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law 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.  While New Zealand law does not specifically provide 
for a 24-hour rest period weekly, the practice is accepted by 
management and labor, and it is the norm.  The government-
mandated hourly minimum wage of approximately $3.75 ($NZ 6.125) 
applies to workers 20 years of age and older.  Combined with 
other regularly provided entitlements and welfare benefits for 
low-income earners, this wage is adequate to provide a decent 
standard of living for a worker and his family.  Effective 
April 1, 1994, a youth minimum wage for younger workers was 
introduced at 60 percent of the adult minimum.  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, notably the Health and 
Safety in Employment Act of 1992.  Under this legislation, 
employers are obliged to provide a safe and healthy work 
environment, and employees are responsible for their own safety 
and health as well as ensuring that their actions do not harm 
others.  The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions 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.  Department of Labour inspectors enforce 
safety and health rules, and they 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.  Workers have the 
right to withdraw from a dangerous work situation without 
jeopardy to continued employment.

(###)


[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1994 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.