Your rights

We all have the right to be treated fairly, with respect and to be free from unwelcome discrimination.

How you can expect to be treated

  • We all have the right to the equal enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.
  • All Indigenous peoples are entitled to self-determination (to choose their political status and the way they want to develop) and the protection of their language, culture, heritage, and relationship to the environment.
  • We all have the right to enjoy one's culture and to use one's own language.
  • We all have the right to freedom of religion and belief.
  • We all have the right to be treated with respect, dignity and equity. We also have the right to not be harassed, taunted or teased because of our colour, our accent, the way we dress, the food we eat or anything else related to our race or ethnicity.

Discrimination is behaviour that hurtful or offensive and either repeated or serious enough to have a harmful effect on you. Many people experience unfair treatment because of how they look or where they come from. Discrimination can also be subtle, creating systemic barriers that lock people out of social and economic opportunities. 

The Human Rights Act makes this unlawful when it occurs in:

  • government or state sector activities
  • public education and health services
  • employment
  • business partnerships
  • industrial and professional associations
  • qualifying bodies and vocational training bodies
  • access to public places, vehicle and facilities
  • access to goods and services
  • access to land, housing and accommodation
  • and access to education.

Read the Commission's Resolving Discrimination and Harassment Guide.

If you experience or indirect discrimination you can complain  to the Human Rights Commission.

Find out more about Institutional Discrimination

The Human Rights Commission published a discussion paper that looks at the part that structural discrimination plays in perpetuating inequalities. View the Commission's Report on Institutional Discrimination (PDF) (Accessible Version).

What laws protect your rights

The Human Rights Act and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) exist to promote and the protect our rights.

The Human Rights Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on the ground of colour, race, ethnicity, or national origin in any of the prohibited areas of public life. Read more about this and the other grounds of discrimination here.

If you have further questions about the laws that protect your rights you can either view our Enquiries, Complaints, and Support section or our Frequently Asked Questions section.

Visit our Using your rights section to find out what your options are if you think you have faced and form of discrimination.

The Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi is regarded as New Zealand’s founding document and is an agreement, in Māori and English, that was made between the British Crown and about 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs).

The Treaty is our own, unique statement of human rights and belongs to all of us. It has been called “the promise of two peoples to take the best possible care of each other”.

The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s own, unique statement of human rights. The Treaty belongs to all of us and is regarded as the founding document of our State.  It has been called “the promise of two peoples to take the best possible care of each other”.

The Treaty affirmed the rights tangata whenua had prior to 1840, and gave tauiwi (non-Māori) and the Crown a set of rights and responsibilities that enabled them to settle in Aotearoa; “the promise of two peoples to take the best possible care of each other”. It gives rights and responsibilities to all people in Aotearoa New Zealand, and assures a tūrangawaewae (standing place to belong) for all of us.

The Commission’s Te Mana i Waitangi resource is a tool to assist people to understand the human rights dimensions of the Treaty. It guides readers/participants through the texts of the Treaty and examines the rights and responsibilities that were exchanged.  It highlights links to international human rights standards and includes examples of how these rights and responsibilities can be expressed in practice. Read more about the human rights dimensions of the Treaty here.

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

Indigenous peoples have the right to enjoy all human rights. In order to address the marginalisation and discrimination of indigenous people, their individual and collective rights are set out in the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

These rights include: self-determination, equality and non-discrimination and participation in decision-making; the rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, land and resources.

Māori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. Many articles of the Declaration intersect with the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Declaration helps to explain how international human rights standards apply and how the promise of the Treaty can be achieved. The Declaration also affirms the status of treaties between indigenous peoples and States, and the importance of upholding these. 

The Declaration is “a standard of achievement to be pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect.” Learn more about UNDRIP and the Treaty here.

Te Reo Māori

All Indigenous peoples are entitled to self-determination and the protection of their language, culture, heritage, and relationship to the environment. Learn about the history and development of Te Reo Māori here.

Local Government Electoral Amendment Act 2002

The Human Rights Act affirms that we all have the right to the equal enjoyment of civil and political rights. Building on this, the Local Government Electoral Amendment Act 2002 extended the option of Māori wards or constituencies to all regional councils and territorial local authorities. Read our report on Māori representation in local government here.

Indigenous rights in New Zealand

Read the Commission's report card on the state of human in New Zealand here. This includes a chapter on Human rights and the Treaty of Waitangi – Te mana i Waitangi.