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Title: New Zealand Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996

                         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 the native Maori minority 
population.  New Zealand has an independent judiciary.

The Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau are self-governing countries in free 
association with New Zealand.  Their local laws are 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.  Tourism is also a significant sector of the economy, and 
niche industries are developing in such high technology sectors as 
software production.  Recent structural reforms have transformed a 
highly protected economy to one based on free trade and free market 
principles.  Disparities in wealth are small but increasing, and most 
New Zealanders enjoy a comfortable standard of living.

The Government fully respects the human rights of its citizens, and the 
law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with instances of 
individual abuse.  The Government has taken steps to address the 
problems of domestic violence against women and societal discrimination 
against indigenous people.


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

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

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

Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the 
Government permits visits by human rights monitors.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the 
Government observes this prohibition.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for the right to a fair trial and an independent 
judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in practice.  The 
judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process.  
A three-tiered impartial judiciary is in place, with the right to take 
an appeal to the Privy Council in London, though this privilege is 
rarely invoked.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The law prohibits such practices, government authorities respect these 
prohibitions, and violations are subject to effective legal sanction.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the 
Government respects these rights in practice.  An independent press, an 
effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system 
combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press.  Academic freedom 
is not limited.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally 
respects this right in practice.  A family of Jehovah's Witnesses 
appealed a court order that their son be given a blood transfusion in 
contravention of their religious beliefs.  The boy was made a ward of 
the court in matters of medical treatment, and the parents are 
considering a further appeal.

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

The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 
practice.  The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for 
Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees.  
There were no reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim 
to refugee status.  There were reports of refugees encountering 
bureaucratic difficulty in registering with employment services and 
obtaining language and occupational training.  The Government 
acknowledged the problem and took steps to remedy the situation.

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

The law provides citizens with the right to change their government 
peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through 
periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal 

There are no restrictions on the role of women in politics and 
government.  Of the 99 Members of Parliament, 20 are women, 6 are Maori 
(including the 4 reserved seats), and 1 is of Pacific Island origin.  
Women and minorities are accorded full opportunity to participate in 
political life.  The Speaker of the House is a Maori, two women are 
members of the Executive Council (Cabinet), and the leader of the 
parliamentary opposition is a woman.

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

A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, 
investigating allegations and publishing their findings on human rights 
cases.  Government officials are cooperative and responsive to their 

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

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of all the above listed 
factors, and the Government effectively enforces it.


The Government makes a concerted effort to stop violence against women; 
initiatives include the issuance of nonmolestation and nonviolence 
orders against abusive partners, civil protection orders issued in 
family courts, and suits for compensation for some forms of negligent 
harm.  The law penalizes spousal rape.

A government-commissioned survey, published in 1995, found that 20 
percent of New Zealand men had subjected their partners to physical or 
psychological abuse in the last year.  Critics of the report believed 
that the definition of abuse was too broad, but the authors stood by 
their methodology and conclusions.  The study recommended that 
antiviolence programs for men encourage abusers to take responsibility 
for their actions and compel abusers to understand that their behavior 
is unacceptable.

In September nationwide television began showing a new series of public 
service announcements about domestic violence, focusing on the fact that 
violence occurs in all socioeconomic groups and is unacceptable in any 
circumstances.  The advertisements also promote the message that a 
"cycle of violence" will be perpetuated into the next generation of the 
family unless the abuser is stopped.  In December Parliament passed a 
law that would require any person who is the subject of a restraining 
order to surrender his or her firearms and firearms license.

Discrimination in employment and rates of pay for equal or similar work 
is prohibited by law.  There are effective legal remedies available for 
women who experience discrimination.


The law provides for specific safeguards for children's rights and 
protection.  The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's 
rights and welfare through its well-funded systems of public education 
and medical care.  Parliament passed a law in 1995 which made it an 
offense for a New Zealander to have sex with a child under the age of 16 
even outside of New Zealand's borders; the law was designed to ban New 
Zealanders' participation in "sex tourism."  

While no pattern of societal abuse of children exists, the Government 
recognizes the problem of violence within the family.  Both government-
sponsored and charitable organizations work to prevent child abuse in 
the home.

  People With Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in 
employment, education, and the provision of other state services.  
Compliance with access laws, mandated by the Disabled Persons Community 
Welfare Act, varies as business owners and others strive to make 
necessary adaptations.  

  Indigenous People

Approximately 13 percent of the population claim at least one ancestor 
from the country's indigenous Maori or Moriori 

minorities.  The law prohibits discrimination against the indigenous 
population, yet a disproportionate number of Maori are included in the 
unemployment and welfare rolls, the prison population, school dropouts, 
infant mortality statistics, and single-parent households.  Government 
policy recognizes a special role for indigenous people and their 
traditional values and customs, including cultural and environmental 
issues that have an effect on issues of commercial development.  The 
Ministry of Maori Development, in cooperation with several Maori 
nongovernmental organizations, seeks to improve the status of indigenous 
people.  A special tribunal continues to hear Maori tribal claims to 
land and other natural resources stemming from the Treaty of Waitangi.

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Pacific Islanders, who comprise 5 percent of the population, are not an 
indigenous people, but they experience difficulties similar to Maori.  

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

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, is affiliated 
with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.  A second, 
smaller national labor federation, the New Zealand Trade Union 
Federation, 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 freely exercise the right to 

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 and bargaining collectively.

Unions now represent fewer than half of all wage earners.  Under the 
Employment Contracts Act, employment relationships are based on 
contracts.  Individual employees and employers may choose to conduct 
negotiations for employment contracts on their own behalf, or they may 
authorize any other person or organization to do so on their behalf.  
Although choosing a union 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 or employees, however, are required to 
negotiate or to agree to a contract.

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, the Cook Islands, 
Niue, or Tokelau.

  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 the 

  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, compulsory education ensures that children under 
the minimum age for leaving school (now 16 years) 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 hours per week standard.  While the 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 family.  In 1994 a 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.

An extensive body of law and regulations govern 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]


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