Your human rights

In New Zealand, the rights of individuals are protected by a wide range of laws. These laws cover problems you may have with government organisations, private businesses or individuals.

If you feel something goes against your rights, you can complain. There is a comprehensive list of agencies that can help you to resolve your problem.

Agencies that can help | Complaint line

The Bill of Rights

New Zealand has a Bill of Rights that protects your:

  • life and security rights
  • democratic and civil rights
  • non-discrimination and minority rights
  • search, arrest and detention rights
  • criminal procedure rights
  • justice rights.

The Community Law website has more information on the Bill of Rights. The Human Rights Commission also has information on these rights and how to complain if something happens that goes against your rights.

Bill of Rights Act | New Zealand Human Rights Commission

New Zealand Bill of Rights | Community Law

Human Rights

New Zealand also has a Human Rights Act. It protects everyone in New Zealand from discrimination - being treated unfairly or less favourably than someone else who is in the same or similar situation as you.

Under the Act, no one can discriminate against you on the grounds of:

  • your age, sex (gender) or sexual orientation
  • your marital or relationship status
  • having a family or not
  • being in a relationship with or related to a certain person
  • your religious or ethical beliefs
  • your colour, race, ethnicity or country of origin
  • having any kind of disability, impairment or illness
  • your political opinions
  • your employment status.

If you are facing discrimination, you can contact the Human Rights Commission for help. They use an interpreting service so you can talk in your own language.

If you feel unsafe, call the Police.

Information for migrants - Human Rights Commission

Help if you face racism or other discrimination

If you face racism or other forms of discrimination, you can complain to the Human Rights Commission. They can help with advice and information. If necessary, they can work with the other party to resolve your complaint. Your case may go to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. They may award compensation if your feelings and dignity have been hurt.

You can report race-based abuse and crimes to the Police. In an emergency, call 111 to reach the New Zealand Police. To reach them in non-emergencies, call 105. 

Human Rights Commission - make a complaint

Report a hate crime | New Zealand Police


Family talking together


Your rights in a relationship

Domestic or family violence is an important human rights issue, and it is against the law in New Zealand. This means anyone in a relationship has the right to:

  • leave an abusive relationship
  • ensure a safe environment for their children
  • refuse to do something if they do not want to do it
  • work and study, depending on immigration or citizenship status.

The police and other agencies in New Zealand take family violence seriously. They have people who can help, and you do not have to leave your family to get help. Some of these agencies can arrange for interpreters who speak your language.

You can also get 10 days' paid leave and ask for short-term flexible working arrangements if you are affected.

If you are worried for your own or someone else's safety, call the following organisations on their 24-hour crisis phone lines:

Women’s Refuge - 0800 733 843
It’s not OK Information Line - 0800 456 450
HELP sexual abuse services - 09 623 1700
The Ministry for Vulnerable Children - Oranga Tamariki - 0508 326 459.

Women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin can also contact Shakti on their multilingual 24-hour crisis line on 0800 742 584. 

For more information on the law and how you can access online support, counselling services, and safe accommodation, see the links below.

Support for family violence victims | New Zealand Government

Information on family violence and help | Are you OK

Culture no excuse | Shakti

Leave for family violence victims | Employment New Zealand

Family violence - get help | Women's Refuge

Rights of children and young people

Children and young people up to the age of 17 years have special rights which are covered by a range of different laws.

These laws protect the rights of children, and define those rights. For example:

  • the right for children to be involved in decisions about their welfare
  • the minimum age for various things children can be entitled to
  • the age from when children can legally live away from their home.


Smacking children or using physical force to discipline children is illegal in New Zealand.

The Community Law website has more information.

Youth legal rights | Community Law

Living with HIV 

People living with HIV have the same human rights as everyone else, including the right to health, privacy, non-interference from the state and non-discrimination. No one can refuse you a job, housing, medical services or dental services because of your HIV diagnosis. In fact, it is illegal in NZ to discriminate based on HIV status under the Human Rights Act and you can make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission if you feel you have faced discrimination

Right to protection from unlawful cultural practices

Some cultural practices are against the law in New Zealand and carry serious punishments.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) or 'cutting' is against the law in New Zealand under the Crimes Act, even if the woman or girl wants it done. There is a maximum jail term of seven years for anyone found guilty of practising FGM.

It is also illegal to make any arrangement for a New Zealand citizen or resident or child to leave New Zealand for FGM to be performed or to encourage any person in New Zealand to perform FGM on a New Zealand citizen or resident outside New Zealand.

Shakti Women's Refuge has information on unlawful cultural practices. Contact Shakti on 0800 742 584 for help.

Female genital mutilation | FGM New Zealand

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