Human Rights Legislation

New Zealand has most of the structures and systems we need to ensure that our civil and political rights are protected. As individuals, we are generally free to say what we think, read what we like, worship where and how we choose, move freely around the country, and feel confident in the laws that protect us from discrimination and the arbitrary abuse of power.

Most New Zealanders today also experience the benefits of the economic, social and cultural rights – education, decent work, good health, and affordable, healthy housing – that underpin a fair and just society and are vital to the dignity, equality and security of each individual.

There are two main pieces of law in New Zealand that specifically promote and protect human rights. One is the Human Rights Act 1993, and the other is the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

The Human Rights Act sets out the primary functions of the Human Rights Commission. These are to advocate and promote respect for and appreciation of human rights in New Zealand society; and to encourage the maintenance and development of harmonious relations between individuals and the diverse groups in New Zealand society.

The Commission also has the power to resolve disputes relating to unlawful discrimination. If you believe you have been discriminated against you can ask the Commission for assistance. The Act’s intention is to help ensure that all people in New Zealand are treated fairly and equally.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act sets out a range of civil and political rights, which arise from the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Act includes, among other things, the right to freedom of expression, the right to religious belief, and the right to freedom of movement, and the right to be free from discrimination, and medical experimentation.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act requires the Government and anyone carrying out a public function to observe these rights, and to justify any limits placed on them. Complaints about breaches of these rights are privately funded and proceed through the courts.

New Zealand has signed up to a number of international human rights covenants, conventions and protocols. This means that New Zealand has obligations to enforce these international standards through its laws.

New Zealand also has a number of government and non-government agencies that support or provide information to support human rights.

Update: The Right To Privacy In The Digital Age

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission is one of four National Human Rights Institutions that submitted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report: ‘The Right To Privacy In The Digital Age’ released recently.

New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s Submission:

The Protection of Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age (PDF).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report: The Right To Privacy In The Digital Age (PDF).

The list of submitters to: The Right To Privacy In The Digital Age.


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