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New Zealand 2023

Inquiries found multiple breaches by the government in upholding the rights of Māori. Human rights concerns persisted in the criminal justice system including in relation to youth justice processes and conditions of detention.


In January, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern resigned and was replaced by Christopher Hipkins. In October, there was a change of government after the national elections and Christopher Luxon was sworn in as prime minister in November.

Eleven deaths were recorded related to February’s Cyclone Gabrielle, likely to have been worsened by climate change.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

The Waitangi Tribunal, a body that hears claims brought by Māori regarding Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Treaty of Waitangi, found multiple breaches of the treaty obligations to uphold the rights of Māori. In February, a report on the administration of justice published by the Waitangi Tribunal highlighted inadequate funding arrangements for claimants impacting the ability of Māori to fully participate in tribunal processes. In May, the Waitangi Tribunal released a report into housing policy and services for Māori, which found multiple breaches of the treaty in addressing Māori homelessness.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

In March, the government introduced a bill to increase the length of time a person seeking asylum who arrived in New Zealand as part of a “mass arrival” could be detained without a warrant from 96 hours to up to 28 days.

Detainees’ rights

A report on the Department of Corrections by the Chief Ombudsman published in June found that the Department did not sufficiently consider the fair, safe and humane treatment of people in prison in their decision-making, thereby placing detainees’ rights at greater risk of being ignored.

In July, the 7th periodic review of the UN Committee against Torture raised serious concerns including about the disproportionate representation of Māori in the prison system and conditions of detention.

Children’s rights

The UN Committee against Torture’s review referred to long-standing concerns about the treatment of children in the justice system, including the minimum age of criminal responsibility, which remained at 10.  

The findings of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (now known as the Children and Young People’s Commission) on two youth justice residences included evidence of ill-treatment of children in both, and allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour by staff in one. In June, the former Children’s Commissioner stated that children’s residences were unsafe and should be replaced by a system that is “fit for purpose”.

Right to a healthy environment

According to the research group Climate Action Tracker, New Zealand continued to have an overall rating of “highly insufficient” based on its climate policies, action, nationally determined contribution target and climate finance.