Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1988

New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy, with executive
authority vested in a 20-meraber cabinet led by a prime
minister. The 97 members of the unicameral legislature
include 4 elected by those members of the native Maori
minority who wish to be included on a separate electoral roll.
Maoris comprise over 12 percent of New Zealand's population of
3,263,000, while other Pacific islanders total nearly 4
percent. The rights of the increasingly urbanized,
disadvantaged, and activist Maori minority are receiving
increased public attention. The Ministry of Maori Affairs,
which is responsible for looking after Maori interests and
needs, is being reorganized so that it can better carry out
its responsibilities.
Real annual average economic growth has been low in recent
years. However, the free enterprise economy affords the
opportunity for a reasonable standard of living for most New
Zealanders. Education is freely available to all.
New Zealand continued its excellent record in human rights
during 1988. New Zealanders enjoy personal freedom, freedom
of religion, freedom of the press, universal suffrage, and the
rule of law. Respect for minority rights, concern for the
economically deprived, and the humane treatment of prisoners
are established in principle and in practice.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political Killing
Killing for political motives does not occur.
      b. Disappearance
There have been no instances of politically motivated
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Torture and other forms of mistreatment are prohibited by law
and these prohibitions are respected in practice.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
New Zealanders enjoy freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention,
and exile. New Zealand law provides for the writ of habeas
corpus, and persons arrested in New Zealand are charged
promptly. Legal aid is provided by the court to those who
cannot afford to pay for a private attorney. Preventive
detention is prohibited.
With regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
New Zealand law assures a prompt, public trial. The rights of
the accused are carefully observed and subject to public
scrutiny. The judiciary operates independently of executive
or legislative influence.
f. Arbitrary Interference v;ith Privacy, Family, Home, or
The right to privacy is assured by law. The Government does
not violate a person's privacy, the sanctity of the home, or
the integrity of correspondence.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Rights, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedom of speech and press are assured by law and respected
in practice. There are 156 newspapers and 602 magazines
published throughout the country, reflecting a wide spectrum
of political and social thought. The Government makes no
attempt to censor the press, and opposition viewpoints are
freely expressed.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Rights to peaceful assembly and association are recognized and
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
New Zealand enjoys a long tradition of religious tolerance.
All faiths are given equal treatment under the law.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
New Zealanders are not subject to limitations on internal
movement or resettlement. Foreign travel is unrestricted, and
the right to return is assured. To the extent of its
resources. New Zealand accepts and resettles refugees and
asylum seekers.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
The people freely elect their government. Two major parties.
Labour and National, dominate the political scene and have
formed governments chosen in triennial elections for more than
50 years. Smaller parties and groups, mostly devoted to
limited and parochial issues, are usually of little
conseguence in the national electoral process. New Zealand
law provides for universal suffrage; citizens are eligible to
vote at age 18. No restrictions based upon race, sex, creed,
or national origin limit participation in the political
process. Women and Maoris, as well as other minorities,
regularly serve in Parliament and the Cabinet. Voting rates
are high, and participation in political groups is common.
Opposition groups freely voice their views.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
New Zealand's commitment to human rights is clearly
demonstrated by the active efforts of local, national, and
international bodies organized to protect human rights and
prevent discrimination. The official New Zealand Human Rights
Conunission and New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties are
joined by such nongovernmental human rights organizations as
the Citizens Association for Racial Equality, the New Zealand
chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, the Race
Relations Conciliator, Amnesty International, and the National
Organization of Women.
In January 1988, a member of the United Nations Working Group
on Indigenous Populations visited New Zealand in a private
capacity at the request of a Maori tribe which alleged it was
the victim of institutionalized racial discrimination. After
investigation and discussions with a wide range of sources,
the U.N. official reported that she found no evidence to
support the tribe's complaints, but she urged the Government
to improve its already excellent human rights record by taking
an even more active role in promoting the rights of its Maori
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Despite the historical absence of overt discrimination and the
existence of some successful Maori, the indigenous population
remains marginally educated and economically disadvantaged.
Increasing urbanization--approximately 90 percent of young
Maori live in cities--and continued assimilation with New
Zealanders of European descent have created social stress
which is reflected in social indicators. A relatively high
percentage of Maori are unemployed and receive state
assistance. They figure disproportionately in crime
statistics and among the prison population.
A trend toward increased Maori activism continued in 1988,
evidenced most directly in a series of court cases demanding
the return of government-held land to Maori tribes in
accordance with the terms of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. In
accordance with decisions of the Waitangi Tribunal, the body
set up in 1975 to adjudicate such claims, the Government
recently transferred several plots of land and granted rights
to use resources, including fisheries, to specific tribes;
where that was not possible, the Government provided
substantial compensation to Maori claimants. Numerous other
claims are currently under investigation. The Government has
also engaged in dialogue on reforms designed to enhance Maori
representation in the political process and thus better ensure
recognition of their basic rights and aspirations.
There was growing sensitivity to the status of women during
1988. The Government established a Ministry of Women's
Affairs in 1985 and has ratified the U.N. Convention for the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. A
Human Rights Commission established in 1977 hears complaints
about sex discrimination, most frequently concerning wage
inequities. The Government is considering the introduction of
legislation requiring employers to pay women and men comparable
wages for work of comparable worth.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
New Zealand workers have unrestricted rights to establish and
join organizations of their own choosing and to affiliate
those organizations with other unions and international
organizations. Their unions are protected from interference.
suspension, and dissolution by the Government, and, in fact,
have considerable influence on legislation and government
policy. Unions have the right to strike. Public sector
unions, however, are precluded from striking if work stoppages
pose a threat to public safety. Unions freely maintain
relations with international bodies and participate in
bilateral exchanges.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right of labor unions to organize and bargain collectively
is assumed by law. They actively recruit members and engage
in collective bargaining. Sixty-one percent of wage earners
are represented by unions. Mediation and arbitration
procedures are independent of government control. A system of
labor courts hears cases arising from disputes over
interpretation of these laws. In addition, the Arbitration
Commission and the Mediation Service are available to handle
wage disputes and assist in maintaining effective labor
relations. Labor laws are applied uniformly throughout the
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
All New Zealand workers are protected from forced or
compulsory labor by law and in practice.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Children under the age of 16 may not be employed without
special government approval and must not work between the
hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. These laws are effectively
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
New Zealand enforces a 40-hour workweek, a minimum of 3 weeks'
annual paid vacation for all employees, and observance of 11
paid public holidays. The hourly minimum wage of $3.00 is
adequate to provide a decent standard of living. In most
cases, minimum wage recipients also receive a variety of
welfare payments. The vast majority of workers earn more than
the minimum wage.