1. Introduction Timatatanga

1.1 The New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights /
Mana ki te Tangata

In the turbulent, fast changing world of the 21st century, the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provide the best basis for ensuring the dignity, equality and security of every man, woman and child in New Zealand.

By acting now, the human rights of all New Zealand's people can be strengthened over the next five years. Mana ki te Tangata / The New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights (the Action Plan) sets out what is required to achieve measurable improvements between 2005 and 2010.

The Action Plan builds on the evidence and analysis presented in Human Rights In New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu (the status report), the first comprehensive assessment of the status of human rights in New Zealand, published in September 2004. It showed where New Zealand is doing well in protecting human rights and where we must do better.

The report used as its framework the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and codified into international law through United Nations Covenants and Conventions and the eight core International Labour Organisation (ILO) labour standards. The Treaty of Waitangi also formed part of that assessment framework. Internationally there is increasing acknowledgement of the inter-relatedness of individual and collective or group rights. The Treaty of Waitangi provides for both, and so encourages New Zealand to build a dynamic culture of human rights that incorporates both.

New Zealand has the essential elements necessary for the effective protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights, the status report concluded. In many respects we meet international human rights standards and often surpass them.

The most pressing issues to emerge were those relating to:

These are the themes and issues on which the Action Plan focuses. The Action Plan proposes:


The Action Plan starts with a focus on children, disabled people and race relations. It then covers civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and the legal and policy framework for protecting and promoting human rights in New Zealand.

In the turbulent, fast changing world of the 21st century, the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provide the best basis for ensuring the dignity, equality and security of every man, woman and child in New Zealand.

1.2 Identifying priorities for action /
Tirohanga mahi tuatahi

Human Rights in New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu provided a comprehensive survey across the range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Its data, analysis and conclusions are at the heart of the Action Plan, but also stand independent of it, and will have impact well beyond it. The Action Plan, like the status report, also draws on the Commission's EEO Framework for the Future, New Zealand 's Census of Women's Participation, the Inquiry into Accessible Public Land Transport, and the Human Rights and Treaty of Waitangi Project.

The Action Plan focuses on a limited number of issues and areas for concentrated attention over the next five years. It is framed around specific outcomes in those areas where New Zealand most needs to improve its human rights performance. The Action Plan identifies priority actions which will contribute directly to achieving the specified outcomes. In selecting both outcomes and priority actions, the Commission took public comment on the status report into account.

Before choosing each specific action, the Commission asked:


While the Commission has completed detailed analysis and justification of each action, the Action Plan itself is short and succinct. It simply introduces each issue, states the desired outcome and lists the priority actions.

1.3 Implementation of the Action Plan /
Te whakakaupapatanga o te ritenga mahi

In many other countries, the task of preparing such a plan has been undertaken by government. The New Zealand Parliament, in giving this responsibility to the Human Rights Commission, recognised the importance of an independent and inclusive process. Cabinet made clear its commitment to the development of the Action Plan when, in 2002, it directed the Secretary for Justice to advise all Chief Executives of the Government’s support for the process and its intention that the public service should cooperate actively with the Commission.

The Cabinet recognised that the Action Plan would cover civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights consistent with New Zealand ’s obligations under international human rights law.

While some actions can be implemented immediately, others will require detailed development and timelines. The responsibility for that work rests with the agencies and organisations that have the relevant statutory or community mandate. In a few cases, the Human Rights Commission or the Office of the Children's Commissioner will be the lead agency for implementation of an action. In most cases, it will be government agencies, territorial local authorities or community organisations. But there is no reason to wait for someone else to act. Crucial steps towards implementing the suggested actions can also be taken by individuals or families, in their homes and neighbourhoods; by employers, employees and unions in their workplaces; and by parents, teachers, trustees and students in early childhood centres and schools throughout New Zealand.


Over the next five years, the Human Rights Commission will work with agencies and organisations responsible for priority actions, and will report annually on progress in implementing the Action Plan and its impact on promoting respect for human rights and encouraging harmonious relations.

1.The term ”disabled people” is used in this Action Plan, as it was in the status report, in accordance with the recommendations of the Disability Sector Advisory Group. This follows the approach taken in the New Zealand Disability Strategy. [Return to chapter]