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

2014 Trafficking in Persons Report - New Zealand

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 20 June 2014
Cite as United States Department of State, 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report - New Zealand, 20 June 2014, 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 from Indonesia aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand territorial waters are subjected to forced labor, including through debt bondage, confiscation of passports, underpayment of wages, imposition of significant debts, poor living and working conditions, and physical and sexual abuse. Some Asian and Pacific Islanders migrate to New Zealand to work in the agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, and hospitality sectors, or as domestic workers, and are subsequently subjected to forced labor. Some foreign workers are charged excessive and escalating recruitment fees, experience unjustified salary deductions and restrictions on their movement, and have their passports confiscated and contracts altered. Some migrant workers are also forced to work in job conditions that are different from what they were promised during their recruitment, but do not complain about it because they are afraid of losing their temporary work visas.

Foreign women, including some from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Vietnam, may be at risk of coercive or forced prostitution. Some international students and temporary visa holders are vulnerable to forced labor in various sectors in New Zealand. A small number of girls and boys, often of Maori or Pacific Islander descent, are subjected to street prostitution, and some are victims of gang-controlled trafficking rings. Some children are recruited by other girls or compelled by family members into child prostitution.

The Government of New Zealand fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government, however, has not prosecuted any trafficking cases or convicted any trafficking offenders under its anti-trafficking legislation in the last eight years. It has not identified or certified any trafficking victims in the last 10 years, although it has conducted prevention and monitoring programs in vulnerable labor sectors. Amendments to the national anti-trafficking legislation to conform New Zealand law to international law requirements awaited parliamentary approval at the end of the reporting period. The government did not initiate any new investigations in 2013; three reported trafficking investigations from 2012 did not lead to prosecutions, despite evidence of forced labor. The government did not provide any trafficking-specific services to potential victims in vulnerable groups. The government, in collaboration with civil society members, continued to conduct awareness trainings throughout the year for government officials likely to encounter trafficking victims.

Recommendations for New Zealand:

Enact legislation to expand New Zealand's current anti-trafficking legal framework to prohibit and punish all forms of human trafficking; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute both sex and labor trafficking offenses; update and fully implement the 2009 national plan of action to address current trafficking trends in the country, redefine "trafficking" in the plan to fit international law definitions, and implement action plan items consistent with the new definition; make greater efforts to assess the full extent of sex trafficking involving children and foreign women and labor trafficking involving migrant workers; continue to increase efforts to proactively screen vulnerable populations, including women and children in prostitution, foreign workers, and illegal migrants to identify and assist trafficking victims; increase efforts to provide assistance to child sex trafficking victims; investigate and prosecute recruiting agencies and employers who subject foreign workers to debt bondage or involuntary servitude through deceptive recruitment practices; and establish an ongoing anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at clients of prostitution.


The Government of New Zealand decreased efforts to hold traffickers accountable for trafficking crimes. New Zealand does not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of trafficking, and the Parliament has yet to approve proposed amendments to conform the definition of trafficking to international law. Parliament sought to act on the amendments by the end of 2013, but postponed action until late 2014. Current 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 is 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 equivalent to approximately $250,000; these penalties are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

While these laws could be used to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, the government has never done so. According to NGOs and government officials, the reason for the absence of anti-trafficking prosecutions and identification of victims is the high evidentiary bar of the current law. In 2013, the government initiated one new investigation, a decrease from the eight opened in 2012. The government investigated allegations of forced labor against a farmer, but it did not prosecute the farmer for labor trafficking, despite indications that he underpaid his workers and kept them in conditions that were indicative of forced labor. None of the three labor trafficking investigations that were pending at the close of the last reporting period resulted in trafficking convictions. A case involving Fijian nannies alleged to have been subjected to domestic servitude resulted in an acquittal on trafficking charges, although the nannies were awarded back pay and damages for underpayment of wages and excessively long work hours. A case involving Indian students who were forced to work in Auckland's liquor stores resulted in fines for non-trafficking offenses. A case involving a worker at a farm that experienced labor exploitation resulted in fines. The government did not report any sex trafficking investigations or prosecutions. 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 during the year. The government continued to train customs officers on trafficking issues as part of a mandatory course and provided training sessions on victim identification to front-line officers at various agencies. It did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.


The Government of New Zealand maintained its victim protection efforts. It did not identify any victims of trafficking. In 2012, the government reported adopting a victim-centered approach to monitoring industries with high numbers of migrant workers; this did not result in the identification of trafficking victims in 2013. Labor inspectors periodically visited legal brothels to ensure that working conditions were in compliance with New Zealand law; this did not result in the identification of trafficking victims. Labor inspectors reported conducting more than 1,000 audits in work places that employ migrant workers; identified breaches of labor standards did not result in trafficking investigations or prosecutions.

Although the government investigated allegations of children in prostitution and referred a child victim to social services in 2012, it did not report any investigations or referrals of child victims in 2013. The government continued to provide temporary work visas to 35 crew members of foreign charter vessels during the ongoing investigations of alleged exploitation onboard the vessels.

New Zealand law requires that victims of crime, including human trafficking, receive access to and information about services, including medical care, legal aid, and counseling. Though the government did not operate any shelters specifically for trafficking victims, on a case-by-case basis New Zealand police have provided assistance, such as food and shelter, to victims of crimes and referred them to NGOs or other service providers. Immigration officers and labor inspectors used templates that include questions to determine if an individual is a trafficking victim; these templates were augmented with an online learning module that raised awareness of trafficking. The law also authorizes the extension of temporary residency to victims of trafficking 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 trafficking victims detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as trafficking victims. The government provided working visas to victims while trafficking cases are under investigation or in trial. 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 2013.


The Government of New Zealand maintained its prevention efforts. In March 2012, an inter-ministerial inquiry outlined specific steps for the government to take to prevent labor trafficking onboard foreign fishing vessels; these steps were not implemented in 2013. For example, a draft law requiring all foreign charter vessels fishing in New Zealand territorial waters to operate as New Zealand-flagged vessels and abide by New Zealand's health and labor laws failed to obtain approval in the parliament for the second consecutive year. At the end of the reporting period, the draft version of the law included a Maori quota exemption clause which may allow current labor trafficking offenders to continue operating in New Zealand territorial waters. Government oversight of the fishing industries failed to lead to any labor trafficking investigations. The Code of Practice on Foreign Fishing Crew to ensure fair payments was last updated in December 2012.

In April 2013, the government sponsored, with an international NGO, a Trafficking in Persons Conference, which included an action plan to incorporate more government-civil society partnerships in addressing human trafficking and a proposal for more proactive investigations by law enforcement. The government continued to distribute brochures on trafficking indicators to community groups in six languages through its regional offices; the government also distributed the brochures to those in the sex trade and the horticulture and viticulture industries. The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment continued to use a train-the-trainer module to raise awareness about trafficking crimes and to 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 overall 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 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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