Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2023, 12:44 GMT

2015 Trafficking in Persons Report - New Zealand

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 July 2015
Cite as United States Department of State, 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report - New Zealand, 27 July 2015, available at: [accessed 23 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


New Zealand is a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Foreign men and women from China, India, the Philippines, countries in the Pacific, South Africa, and the United Kingdom are vulnerable to forced labor in New Zealand's agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, construction, and hospitality sectors, or as domestic workers. Some foreign workers are charged excessive and escalating recruitment fees, experience unjustified salary deductions, non- or underpayment of wages, excessively long working hours, restrictions on their movement, and have their passports confiscated and contracts altered. Some migrant workers are forced to work in job conditions that are different from what they were promised during their recruitment, but do not file complaints due to fear of losing their temporary visas. Foreign men aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters are subjected to forced labor. Foreign women from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam are at risk of coercive or forced prostitution. Some international students and temporary visa holders are vulnerable to forced labor or prostitution. A small number of Pacific Islands and New Zealand (often of Maori descent) girls and boys are at risk of sex trafficking in street prostitution, and some are victims of trafficking in gangs. Some children are recruited by other girls or compelled by family members, into prostitution.

The Government of New Zealand fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government initiated its first anti-trafficking prosecution under the Crime Act of 1961 – involving labor exploitation of Indian students – and convicted two traffickers in two child sex trafficking cases. New Zealand's Parliament passed a second reading of the Omnibus Crime Bill, which contains amendments that conform New Zealand law to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Parliament approved the Fisheries Foreign Charter Vessels Amendments, and the government implemented efforts to prevent trafficking onboard vessels in New Zealand waters. The government, however, did not adequately identify or certify any trafficking victims in vulnerable sectors or among vulnerable groups and continued to treat possible forced labor cases as labor violations.


Approve and enact the Omnibus Crime Bill to expand New Zealand's current anti-trafficking legal framework; increase efforts to proactively identify victims through proactive screening of vulnerable populations, including women and children in prostitution, foreign workers, and illegal migrants; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, especially offenses committed by recruitment agencies and employers who subject workers to debt bondage or involuntary servitude through deceptive recruitment, non- or underpayment of wages, and threats of deportation; update the national action plan to address current trafficking trends in the country by redefining "trafficking" to conform to international law and assigning responsible stakeholders and financial resources; assess the full extent of sex trafficking involving children and foreign women, and labor trafficking involving migrant workers; and continue anti-trafficking awareness campaigns to reduce demand of forced labor and sexual commercial exploitation, especially of children and foreign women.


The government moderately increased efforts to hold traffickers accountable for trafficking crimes. New Zealand does not have an anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of trafficking, but the Parliament passed the second reading of proposed amendments (which are part of the Omnibus Crime Bill) to conform the definition of trafficking to international law. New Zealand statutes define human trafficking as a transnational offense akin to smuggling and do not include exploitation as an element of the crime. The Crimes Act of 1961 criminalizes only some specified forms of forced labor. Slavery is criminalized, but limited to situations of debt bondage and serfdom; this prohibition does not cover forced labor obtained by means other than debt, law, custom, or agreement that prohibits a person from leaving employment. The Dealing in Slaves statute and the Prostitution Reform Act criminalize inducing or compelling a person to provide commercial sex and, with regard to children, provide a broader prohibition to include facilitating, assigning, causing, or encouraging a child to provide commercial sex. While statutory penalties for these crimes are generally commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape, the maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment prescribed for the sex trafficking of children is not commensurate with penalties imposed for rape or with the maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment prescribed for inducing or compelling the commercial sexual services of an adult. The Crimes Act of 1961 and the Wages Protection Act of 1983 prohibit fraudulent employment and recruiting practices and prescribe sufficiently stringent penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 New Zealand dollars ($196,000); these penalties are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

In 2014, the government initiated its first trafficking prosecution under the Crime Act, involving 18 alleged victims from India and two defendants; this case marked the first time New Zealand has used the provision to prosecute suspected traffickers, and the case remained pending at the end of the reporting year. The government reported convicting two traffickers in two child sex trafficking cases under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. One trafficker received 200 hours community service and the other trafficker received 10 months' imprisonment; these penalties were not sufficient. The government reported investigating a possible trafficking case involving exploitation of Fijian nationals; the case remained under investigation at the end of the reporting period. The government also investigated five individuals suspected of exploiting Chinese chefs, but did not prosecute the defendants for labor trafficking despite indications of forced labor. NGOs and government officials cited the high evidentiary bar, failure to define trafficking per international law, and lack of judicial support or understanding of trafficking as reasons for lack of anti-trafficking prosecutions and identification of victims. The Immigration Act prohibits retention or control of a person's passport or any other travel or identity document, though there were no prosecutions under that provision. The government continued to train customs officers on trafficking issues as part of a mandatory course and provided training sessions on victim identification to police officers, but did not report training prosecutors or judiciary officials. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.


The government's victim protection efforts remained weak. It did not certify any trafficking victims, but continued to provide temporary working visas to 18 potential victims. The government did not report providing direct services or protection to children identified in the two child sex trafficking cases or to the Fijian or Chinese nationals in the aforementioned investigations. The government reported it had standardized questions to identify victims of trafficking, but this did not result in identification of any adult victims. Labor inspectors reported visiting legal brothels to ensure working conditions were in compliance with New Zealand law, but this did not result in the identification of trafficking victims. Labor inspectors reported conducting routine audits in work places that employ migrant workers; they identified breaches of labor standards, but these did not result in investigations or prosecutions of forced or coerced labor exploitation. The government had a policy of referring women and child victims of general crime to services; it was unclear if such procedures existed for men, or whether it was applied to trafficking victims. The government did not operate any shelters specifically for trafficking victims; on a case-by-case basis, the government reported providing assistance, such as food and shelter, to victims of crimes and referred them to NGOs or other service providers. The law authorizes the extension of temporary residency to trafficking victims for up to 12 months and makes them eligible for a variety of government-provided or government-funded services while their case is under investigation. There were no reports of victims being detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as trafficking victims; however, some may have been as a result of inadequate government efforts to identify victims. The government reported providing legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims of crime to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, but no trafficking victims received this benefit in 2014. Victims could seek restitution through civil claims; the majority of the labor exploitation cases only resulted in restitution for labor violations.


The government increased prevention efforts. Parliament passed the Fisheries Foreign Charter Vessels Amendments, a law requiring all foreign charter vessels fishing in New Zealand waters to operate as New Zealand-flagged vessels and abide by New Zealand's health and labor laws. Ministries implemented portions of the law and took steps to fully implement the law by 2016. The government continued to sponsor its annual anti-trafficking conference, and endorsed its first non-governmental advisory board to increase government-civil society partnerships in addressing trafficking. In January 2015, the government established a new intelligence team within the Immigration Department to profile and assess risk indicators of forced labor and labor exploitation in the Canterbury region. The Labor Inspectorate increased its manpower to 50 inspectors nationwide and launched an expanded auditing program to target vulnerable sectors in response to growing concerns of labor exploitation of migrant workers. The government distributed brochures on trafficking indicators to community groups in six languages targeting the sex trade and various industries reported to be vulnerable. The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment used a train the-trainer module to raise awareness of trafficking crimes and teach indicators to police and immigration officers to help them identify victims within the vulnerable migrant populations. The government did not take significant steps to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training to diplomats and military personnel prior to their deployment abroad for diplomatic and international peacekeeping missions. The government continued to cooperate with foreign governments to identify child sex tourists in New Zealand and to prioritize the prevention of child sex tourism abroad by New Zealand residents, although these efforts did not result in any investigations or prosecutions.

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