Our Work

As New Zealand’s national human rights institution, one of the main responsibilities of the Human Rights Commission is to advocate and promote respect for human rights in New Zealand. Our work in this area is led by Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford.

We work in partnership with others to help individuals and organisations around New Zealand to and meet their legal responsibilities. We do this by working with government, business, community partners, education providers, the media and workplaces.

Intelligence and Security Activities

In October 2016, the Human Rights Commission provided a submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Committee in relation to the proposed new Intelligence and Security Bill. Our main recommendations were:

  1. In order to ensure that the agencies perform their functions in accordance with New Zealand’s international human rights treaty obligations (and to reinforce the importance of doing so) the Commission recommends that cl 3(c)(i) of the Bill is amended as follows — “…the functions of the intelligence and security agencies are performed— (i) in accordance with New Zealand law and all human rights obligations recognised by New Zealand law, including obligations under international human rights treaties;” 
  2. In order to rectify the Bill’s discriminatory effect on persons who are not New Zealand citizens or permanent residents, the Commission recommends that the Committee consider extending the role of the Commissioner of Intelligence Warrants to provide authorisation for the issue of Type 2 urgent intelligence warrants under cl 70 of the Bill. 
  3. The Commission recommends that clause 11 of the Bill be amended to provide that the protection of national security is the primary objective of the intelligence and security agencies. 
  4. The Commission recommends that the Bill be amended to require the specific development of a statutory Code of Practice to provide further guidance about the practical exercise of powers and functions conferred under the proposed legislation. 
  5. The Commission highlights the need to ensure that the Inspector-General’s role and office is resourced and funded to a sufficient level to allow him or her to properly discharge the oversight functions outlined in the Bill. This resourcing must be appropriately protected from any interference or reduction that could affect the ability of the office to provide the level of oversight and assurance the public requires. 
  6. The Commission recommends that the Bill be amended to require the Chief Commissioner of Intelligence Warrants to seek, and take into account, the views of the person affected by the Minister’s decision to cancel a passport, unless to do so would in itself pose a security risk. 
  7. The Commission recommends that the Committee pay particular attention to clauses 57(a)(ii) and (iii) and consider whether these provisions are necessary. If the conclusion is that the provisions are required, then the proposed limits and safeguards should be closely scrutinised to ensure that they are sufficient given the highly intrusive nature of this proposed power. 
  8. The Commission is also of the view that the debate around the extent and nature of the powers to be conferred on security intelligence services highlights the need to include a specific right to privacy in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. 

In 2015, the Human Rights Commission provided a submission to the Independent Review of Intelligence and Security Services in 2015. Here is a One-Page Summary of our Submission. You can read our full Submission here.

On February 24, Chief Human Rights Commissioner, David Rutherford, published a press release on the Review of Intelligence and Security Services. You can read it here

On November 2014, the Human Rights Commission presented a paper to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet explaining its position on the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill. Read it here.

You can read our 2013 report to the Prime Minister on the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill; Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill, and associated wider issues relating to surveillance and the human rights of people in New Zealand. 

National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

The Commission is the lead agency for the coordination and development of the National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NPA) following the review of New Zealand’s human rights record by the United Nations in 2013. Government, civil society, Iwi and business will all be involved. Read more here.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

World Leaders have committed to 17 Global Goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years. End extreme poverty. Fight inequality & injustice. Fix climate change.

The Global Goals for sustainable development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people. If the Goals are going to work, everyone needs to know about them.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission is committed to ensuring that all New Zealanders know what the Global Goals are, and how they can help realise a freer, fairer, safer, and more just New Zealand. You can learn more about each goal here.

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of New Zealand

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council that periodically examines the human rights performance of all 193 UN Member States, including New Zealand. The UPR is also an important opportunity for individuals, NGOs and civil society organisations to express their views on New Zealand’s human rights situation to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

New Zealand’s second National Report to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review took place on 27 January 2014 in Geneva. Read more about New Zealand's second UPR Review here.

Human Rights in New Zealand

The Commission launched its major report card on the state of human rights in New Zealand on 10 December, 2010, International Human Rights Day. Called Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 – Nga Tika Tangata O Aotearoa 2010, the report card analyses the full spectrum of human rights. It identifies where New Zealand does well, and where it could do better to meet the challenges of poverty, entrenched inequality and discrimination. Read more here.

Monitoring Places of Detention / OPCAT

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) is an international human rights agreement that is designed to help ensure that New Zealand meets its obligations to prevent any form of torture or ill treatment of people who are detained by the State. The Commission has a coordination role as the Central National Prevention Mechanism for New Zealand. Read more here.

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill

On November 2014, the Human Rights Commission presented a paper to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet explaining its position on the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill. Read more here.

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’. Read more here.

Human Rights and Water

Access to water and sanitation is an inalienable human right, without it human life cannot be sustained. The  Commission prepared this paper to promote the human rights implications of water in Aotearoa at a time when the supply of water, access to it, and its quality are matters of national interest. Read more here.

Human Rights Education

Human rights education encourages learning about human rights and how to promote and protect the human rights of individuals, groups and communities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights urges us to recognise, respect, protect, and promote respect for human rights and freedoms. Human rights education provides the knowledge and awareness needed to meet this responsibility. Read more about our work in human rights education here.

International Networks and Projects

The Human Rights Commission is active in a number of international human rights networks and projects, particularly within the Asia-Pacific region. Read more here.

Convention Against Torture

New Zealand is currently being reviewed by the UN for its performance at meeting its human rights obligations under the Convention against Torture and ill-treatment. The Commission's submission and a number of other submissions to the UN committee are published here.

Human Rights Day - 10 December

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Learn more here