New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy with a population of 4.2 million. Citizens periodically choose their representatives in free and fair multiparty elections. The 121-member Parliament is elected in a mixed-member, proportional representation system, with seven seats reserved for members of the native Maori population. The most recent elections were held in September 2005. The Labor Party won 50 parliamentary seats and formed a minority coalition government; Helen Clark remained prime minister. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of addressing individual instances of abuse. There were disproportionate societal problems for indigenous people.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
In the August 2004 police killing of a man who attacked his wife and police officers with a knife, the Independent Police Complaints Authority concluded that the officer acted lawfully and that the force used was justified under the circumstances.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected this prohibition in practice. During the year there were some complaints that individual members of the police committed abuses. The Independent Police Complaints Authority handled complaints of police abuse, ranging from use of abusive language to allegations of complicity in deaths.
On March 31, a jury found an assistant police commissioner and two former police officers not guilty of charges of rape. The three men were arrested in March 2005 for sexual offenses against two women in Rotorua dating back to 1986. Another woman made separate allegations of rape against the same three men; that case was scheduled to go to trial in 2007.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions generally met international standards, and the government permitted visits by human rights observers.
In the 12-month period ending June 30, there were seven serious assaults on staff by inmates and 18 assaults of inmates by other inmates. During the same period there were eight recorded unnatural deaths in custody, including six suicides.
Overcrowding was a problem during the year, but the situation improved compared with the previous year due to added prison capacity. For the 12-month period ending June 30, the prison population averaged 7,605, an average occupancy rate of approximately 98 percent. As of June 30, there were 7,210 male prisoners and 414 female prisoners, while prison capacity was 7,395 beds for male prisoners and 455 for female prisoners.
To alleviate overcrowding, during the year the government continued expansion and new prison construction efforts, used double bunking at prisons, and housed prisoners in police and court cells. In June the Auckland Women's Corrections Facility opened, and its full 286-bed capacity was operational by year's end.
Juvenile detainees come under the jurisdiction of Child, Youth, and Family Services (CYFS) rather than the police. In October 2005, to relieve pressure on overcrowded facilities, CYFS completed a new youth justice facility, raising to 102 the number of beds available for juvenile pretrial detainees and juvenile offenders serving residential orders. As of December 20, a total of 673 juveniles spent a combined 2,036 nights in police cells during the year while waiting for a bed in a youth justice residence. Of these, 370 were later placed in a youth justice residence, 169 were released on bail, 133 were placed in the community, and one remained in a police cell.
On August 25, an adult detainee killed a 17-year-old juvenile detainee while both were being transported from court back to jail. The man who killed the juvenile pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment with an 18-year non-parole period. At year's end several investigations and projects to improve procedures for separating juvenile and adult prisoners and detainees were ongoing. Following the August killing, the Public Prisons Service instituted a requirement that prison managers complete a risk assessment for all prisoner and detainee escorts, including escorts to and from court hearings, to address the risk of possible harm by a prisoner or detainee to self or others or risk to a prisoner or detainee from others. Previously such an assessment was required only in cases involving prisoners or detainees deemed at risk for self-harm.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The police commissioner, appointed by the governor general, is the chief executive of the police force and reports to the minister of police. A board of commissioners, consisting of the commissioner and two deputy commissioners, is responsible for high-level leadership and makes decisions on police strategy, governance, and performance management. The police are organized into 12 districts. There are three operational branches: general duties, criminal investigation, and traffic safety. Allegations of corruption or impunity are referred to the Independent Police Complaints Authority, which can refer cases directly to Parliament. The police generally did not have problems with corruption and impunity.
Arrest and Detention
Police may arrest a suspect without a warrant if they have reasonable cause. Police also may request a warrant from a district court judge. Police may enter premises without a warrant to arrest a person if they reasonably suspect the person of committing a crime on the premises, or if they have found the person committing an offense and are in pursuit. Police must inform arrested persons immediately of their legal rights and the grounds for their arrest.
After a suspect has been arrested and charged, police have the power to release the person on bail until the first court appearance. That bail comes to an end at the first court appearance and is distinct from court bail. Court bail is granted unless there is good reason to believe that the suspect would flee or is likely to be a danger to the community. Police bail is not normally granted for more serious offenses such as serious assault or burglary. Attorneys and families were granted prompt access to detainees.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice.
The Supreme Court is the country's highest court of appeal. It is composed of the chief justice and four other judges appointed by the governor general. Below the Supreme Court is the Court of Appeal; it hears appeals from the High Court, which has original jurisdiction for major crimes and important civil claims. The Court of Appeal also hears appeals on decisions of the district courts in serious criminal matters. The High Court hears appeals from lower courts and reviews administrative actions. Remaining original jurisdiction rests with the 63 district courts. Special courts include the employment court, family court, youth court, Maori land court, Maori appellate court, and environment court. The country's military forces have their own court system, with a courts martial and a courts martial appeals court; appeals from the courts martial appeals court may be made to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy the rights found in other common-law jurisdictions, including a presumption of innocence, a right to a jury trial, a right of appeal, and the right to counsel, to question witnesses, and to access government-held evidence.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, which includes access to the Human Rights Review Tribunal and other courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages and other remedies for alleged human rights abuses. There are also administrative remedies for alleged wrongs through the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and of the press.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet by electronic mail.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The law provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. c. Freedom of Religion The law provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The Jewish community numbered approximately 10,000 persons. In August a Jewish synagogue in Christchurch was vandalized; derogatory language was spray painted on a walkway and swastikas were etched into a plaque. The case was under investigation at year's end.
The government-funded HRC actively promoted religious tolerance.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law provides for these rights, and the government generally respected them in practice.
There is no statutory authority for imposing a sentence of exile, and the government did not practice forced exile.
Protection of Refugees
The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they feared persecution, and granted refugee status or asylum. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers. The government also provided protection to individuals who may not qualify under the definition of the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol. Under its refugee quota, the government resettles up to 750 UNHCR-approved refugees per year. In the 12-month period ending June 30, the government approved 741 persons for refugee status.
During the year asylum seeker and former member of the Algerian Parliament Ahmed Zaoui continued to be the subject of a national security risk certificate issued by the Security Intelligence Service, which continued its review of the certificate at year's end. Zaoui was released from detention on bail by order of the Supreme Court in 2004.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The law provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Parliamentarians are elected under a mixed-member, proportional representation system. In the most recent general elections, held in September 2005, the Labor Party won 50 of 121 parliamentary seats and formed a minority government with Jim Anderton's Progressive Party (one seat) and support from the center-right New Zealand First (seven seats) and United Future (three seats) parties. The Labor Party also had a cooperation agreement with the Green Party (six seats). Three other political parties were represented in Parliament: the National Party (48 seats), Maori Party (four seats), and ACT party (two seats). Executive authority is vested in a 20-member cabinet led by the prime minister.
Women participated fully in political life. There were 39 women in the 121-seat Parliament. There were seven women (including the prime minister) on the executive council, which comprises 28 ministers (20 within the cabinet and eight outside the cabinet). The cabinet included five women. The prime minister, the speaker of the house, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court were women. There were three women in the 25-seat Parliament of the dependent territory of the Cook Islands and three women in the 20 seat Parliament of the dependent territory of Niue.
Seven seats in Parliament are reserved for persons of Maori ancestry. The number of Maori seats is adjusted every five years, based on the number of persons of Maori ancestry who register to vote on the Maori electoral roll.
There were 21 Maori in Parliament, including the seven reserved seats; three members of Pacific Island origin; and one member each of East and South Asian heritage. The cabinet included at least two members with Maori ancestry.
Government Corruption and Transparency
There were no reports of government corruption during the year.
The law provides for public access to government information, to be provided within 20 working days of a request. Information must be made available unless a good reason, such as concern for national security, exists for not doing so. The requester must be provided with an estimate of any fees before the information is provided.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were very cooperative and responsive to their views.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, and national or ethnic origin, and the government actively enforced it.
Violence against women affected all socioeconomic groups. According to a national survey of crime victims conducted in 2001 and released in 2003, an estimated 32 percent of Maori, 17 percent of persons of European ancestry, and 12 percent of Pacific Islanders reported violent abuse by a heterosexual partner at least once in their lifetime; these figures included both men and women. One in four of the women included in the survey reported experiencing violent behavior from a partner at least once. Assault by a male on a female is a crime punishable by up to two years' imprisonment. In the 12-month period ending June 30, there were 6,674 prosecutions involving assault by a male on a female. Of these prosecutions, 49 percent involved Maori men, 31 percent men of European ancestry, and 15 percent Pacific Islanders.
Although Maori women and children constituted less than 10 percent of the population, during the 12-month period ending June 30, 52 percent of the 24,968 women and children who used the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges were Maori; 33 percent were of European ancestry, and 5 percent were Pacific Islanders.
In March 2005 the government established the Task Force for Action on Violence within Families to coordinate a variety of government initiatives to eliminate family violence, including continuation of its Te Rito program, a national strategy to address all forms and degrees of domestic violence. In July the taskforce issued its first report, recommending a $9.9 million (NZ$14 million) national awareness campaign, enhanced power for police to enforce protection orders, a $6.3 million (NZ$9 million) funding increase for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) dealing with family violence, and establishment of three dedicated family violence courts in the Wellington region and one in Auckland. Consistent with the task force recommendations, the government provided funding in the 2006 budget for family violence prevention services and a public awareness ("social marketing") program.
The government partially funded women's shelters, rape crisis centers, sexual abuse counseling, family violence networks, and violence prevention services. From July 2005 through June, the Family Violence Intervention Program provided training for an additional 2,600 social benefits staff, bringing the total number of staff trained to 4,000. The program is designed to improve the government's response to clients facing issues of family violence.
The law penalizes rape, including spousal rape. In the period July 2005 through June, there were eight recorded cases of spousal rape and one conviction on that charge. There were two recorded cases of unlawful sexual connection with a spouse and one conviction. Rape crisis groups existed throughout the country and included centers focusing specifically on Maori and Pacific Islanders.
It is illegal to perform female genital mutilation (FGM) or to remove a child from the country to carry out the procedure; violations of the law are punishable by up to seven years in prison. The government funded a national FGM education program.
Prostitution is legal. The Prostitution Reform Act sets a minimum age of 18 to work in the sex industry, gives prostitutes the same workplace protections as other industries, and provides for a licensing regime for brothels. The law also eliminates a client's defense of claiming ignorance that a person engaged in commercial sexual activity was under 18, and it extends culpability to any person who receives financial gain from such activity involving an underage person. The law prohibits sex tourism, and citizens who commit child sex offenses overseas can be prosecuted in New Zealand courts. During the year there were no reports of abuse or of the involuntary detention of women involved in prostitution, and no reports of such persons having passports held until employer bonds were repaid.
The Prostitution Reform Act also established a statutory Prostitution Law Review Committee (PLRC) to review the act within three to five years of its enactment (by June 2008), including an assessment of the act's impact on the number of persons engaged in prostitution, and the nature and adequacy of resources available to assist persons in avoiding or leaving employment in the commercial sex industry. The government also had an agreement with the United Future Party to review the act to "address problems associated with street soliciting, under age involvement and local authority control over brothel zoning." In April 2005 the PLRC published a baseline profile of the commercial sex industry as a basis for comparison in future years' reviews.
The law prohibits sexual harassment. The HRC published fact sheets on sexual harassment and made sexual harassment prevention training available to schools, businesses, and government departments on a regular basis.
The Ministry of Women's Affairs addresses problems of discrimination and gender equality, and there is a minister of women's affairs in the cabinet. While the law prohibits discrimination in employment and in rates of pay for equal or similar work, the government acknowledged that a gender earnings gap persisted in practice. A unit dedicated to this issue within the Department of Labor administers a $704,000 (NZ one million dollars) annual fund supporting employer and union initiatives to promote pay and employment equity. During the year women earned 87 percent of the average hourly earnings for men.
Children The law provides specific safeguards for children's rights and protection. The government demonstrated its commitment to children's rights and welfare through its well-funded systems of public education and medical care. The government provides 14 weeks of government-funded, paid parental leave to care for children born after December 2005 or adopted children under the age of six. The government extended the paid leave benefit to self-employed parents beginning July 1. The Office of the Commissioner for Children played a key role in monitoring violence and abuse against children.
The law provides for compulsory, free, and universal education through age 16, and the government effectively enforced the law. As of July on average 99 percent of children ages six to 16 were enrolled in formal education. There was equal access to education for boys and girls, with nearly 75 percent of girls and 50 percent of boys enrolling in university studies. The government provided free health care to all children under age five. Child abuse continued to be of concern to the government. The government promoted information sharing between the courts and health and child protection agencies to identify children at risk of abuse. For the period July 2005 through June, there were 20,833 applications to Family Court for guardianship and parenting orders under the Guardianship Act or Care of Children Act and 7,782 applications for protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act.
There were 630 prosecutions and 254 convictions involving assaults on children in the 12-month period ending June 30.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a problem (see section 5, Trafficking).
The Department of Internal Affairs' Censorship Compliance Unit actively policed images of child sex abuse on the Internet and prosecuted offenders. The government maintains extraterritorial jurisdiction over child sex offenses committed by the country's citizens abroad.
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons, and there were no reports that persons were trafficked to or from the country. No new confirmed cases of internationally trafficked persons have been brought to the attention of the authorities since 2001, although there was evidence that some women from Asia, and more recently the Czech Republic and Brazil, were working illegally in the country as prostitutes. Although prostitution has been decriminalized (see section 5, Women), it remains illegal for nonresidents to work in the commercial sex industry.
In December 2005 the UN's special rapporteur on human trafficking asserted in the press that although in many cases such groups as migrant workers, mail-order brides, foreign fishermen, and those in arranged marriages enter the country voluntarily, they could be at risk of losing their autonomy and becoming victims of trafficking.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children was a problem. A PLRC study completed in 2004 estimated that approximately 200 young persons under the age of 18 were working as prostitutes.
The government has signed the relevant international instruments dealing with trafficking and has adopted tough domestic legislation to criminalize trafficking, with penalties of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $352,000 (NZ$500,000). Laws against child sexual exploitation and slavery carry penalties of up to 14 years in prison. Under the Prostitution Reform Act, it is illegal to use a person under 18 years of age in prostitution.
Two prosecutions begun previously were completed during the year. In the first case two women were convicted in Wellington of employing a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old girl in a brothel and were sentenced to community service. The brothel owner was sentenced to 300 hours, with her health considered as a mitigating factor, and the receptionist was sentenced to 180 hours. In the second case a man in Wellington was convicted of seeking commercial sex with a person under the age of 18, following a sting operation by police. He was sentenced to nine months' supervision and forfeiture of $620 (NZ$880); a mental disorder was considered as a mitigating factor in his case.
During the 12-month period ending June 30, two cases initiated against individuals for assisting a person under 18 to provide sexual services were dismissed due to insufficient evidence. At year's end a man faced charges in Christchurch for recruiting a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl to provide sexual services in his brothel. That case was scheduled to be heard in 2007.
The Department of Labor has primary responsibility for coordinating government efforts to combat trafficking in persons. Other agencies involved in antitrafficking efforts included the police; the HRC; the Department of Child, Youth, and Family; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Ministry of Justice; and the Ministry of Health.
During the year the government continued work on its national plan of action against trafficking in persons, begun in 2005, addressing the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution, and victim reintegration. There was strong coordination on antitrafficking matters between the government and NGOs, and an extensive infrastructure of government and NGO assistance programs was available to victims of trafficking, including short-term sanctuary, witness protection, access to medical services, and safe repatriation.
The government also had a national plan of action against the commercial exploitation of children developed in concert with NGOs, and operated programs to reintegrate children out of prostitution through vocational training and educational opportunities. The government also worked to address trafficking in children by providing funding for NGO outreach programs in Auckland and Christchurch that provided accommodations and other support for young persons at risk for involvement in prostitution. In May the government published the results of a 2005 progress review of the national action plan, which reported increased government funding for victim support and sustained funding for community outreach.
Shakti Migrant Services Trust, an antitrafficking NGO, reported abuses resulting from the immigration of Indian women for arranged marriages and provided services to abused women through four refuges located in three cities: Auckland, Christchurch, and Tauranga.
Persons with Disabilities The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to places and facilities, and the provision of goods, services, and accommodation. Compliance with access laws varied. The government is prohibited from discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disability, unless such discrimination can be "demonstrably justified." Of the 5,707 inquiries and complaints that the HRC received during the 12-month period ending June 30, it received more complaints of discrimination based on disability than for any other type of discrimination (21.1 percent of all inquiries and complaints). In its action plan for human rights released in February 2005, the HRC noted that persons with disabilities faced major barriers in obtaining and retaining employment and earning adequate income. The government supported equal access for persons with disabilities to polling facilities, as well as their general participation in civic affairs. Following the 2005 general elections, the Ministry of Justice commissioned a survey that included questions directed at persons with disabilities about their experience with polling procedures. Sixty-one percent of persons with disabilities who responded rated their experience as "excellent," and 31 percent rated it as "very good."
The government's Office for Disabled Issues worked to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. In addition, during the year both the HRC and the Mental Health Commission continued to address mental health issues in their antidiscrimination efforts.
Pacific Islanders, who made up 6.5 percent of the population, experienced societal discrimination and as of June 30 accounted for approximately 10.4 percent of prison inmates and 28.7 percent of those serving community sentences. In July 2005 the Department of Corrections launched its Pacific Strategy 2005-08, designed to reduce the crime rate and recidivism among Pacific Islanders through the use of culturally based techniques. Asians, who as of June 30 made up 3.9 percent of the population, also reported discrimination.
Approximately 15 percent of the population claimed at least one ancestor from the country's indigenous Maori or Moriori minorities. The law prohibits discrimination against the indigenous population; however, there was a continuing pattern of disproportionate numbers of Maori on unemployment and welfare rolls, in prison, among school dropouts, in infant mortality statistics, and among single-parent households. During the year the special rapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedoms from the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) released a report to the UNCHR on his November 2005 visit to the country at the government's invitation to obtain information on human rights related to treaty settlements and indigenous economic, social and cultural rights in general. The report was critical of the government's handling of indigenous claims to land.
Maori continued to constitute half the prison population and 17 percent of persons serving community sentences. The government addressed the problem of recidivism among Maori through Maori focus units and special cultural assessments of Maori offenders.
Government policy recognized a special role for indigenous people and their traditional values and customs, including cultural and environmental issues that affected commercial development. The Ministry of Maori Development, in cooperation with several Maori NGOs, sought to improve the status of indigenous people. A special tribunal established in 1975 continued to hear Maori tribal claims to land and other natural resources stemming from the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.
Legislation enacted in 2004 regulates ownership of the foreshore (the land between high and low tide) and the seabed. The law grants ownership of the foreshore and seabed to the state and provides for universal public access. It also established a mechanism to accommodate customary indigenous rights of land use, including preservation of existing fishing rights. This legislation was the focus of protests by Maori groups asserting customary title to the land and by non-Maori groups opposing such claims.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law provides workers the right to form and join organizations of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, and workers exercised this right in practice. Nearly all unionized workers were members of the Council of Trade Unions, a federation that included unions representing various trades and locations. A few small, independent labor unions also existed. Unions represented approximately 22 percent of all wage earners.
Labor organization was rudimentary in the territory of Tokelau (population 1,400) and in the Freely Associated State of Niue (population 2,200). In the more developed Associated State of the Cook Islands (population 21,000), most workers in the public sector, the major employer, belonged to the Cook Islands Workers' Association, an independent local union. Industrial relations in the Cook Islands are governed by a simplified version of national legislation. The law prohibits uniformed members of the armed forces from organizing unions and bargaining collectively. Sworn police officers (which includes all uniformed and plainclothes police but excludes clerical and support staff) are barred from striking or taking any form of industrial action. However, police have freedom of association and the right to organize and to bargain collectively. Disputes that cannot be settled by negotiation between the police association and management are subject to compulsory, final-offer arbitration.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The law provides for the right of workers to organize and contract collectively, and workers exercised this right in practice.
The Employment Relations Act governs industrial relations and promotes collective bargaining. In order to bargain collectively, unions must be registered, be governed by democratic rules, be independent, and have at least 15 members. Unions may not bargain collectively on social or political issues.
The number of strikes increased during the year. During the 12-month period ending June 30, 59 work stoppages ended and one was ongoing. This was the highest number of work stoppages since 1997.
There were no special laws or exemptions from regular labor laws in export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and the government generally enforced these provisions effectively; however, there were reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children (see section 5).
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
Department of Labor inspectors effectively enforced a ban on the employment of children under the age of 15 in manufacturing, mining, and forestry. Children under age 16 may not work between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. By law children enrolled in school may not be employed, even outside school hours, if such employment would interfere with their education.
There were reports of children involved in the commercial sex industry (see section 5).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work A 40-hour workweek is traditional. There are legal limits regarding hours worked. There is premium pay for overtime work. The law does not provide specifically for a 24-hour rest period weekly; however, management and labor have accepted the practice, and it was the norm. The law provides for a minimum three-week annual paid vacation and 11 paid public holidays. The minimum wage was approximately $7.20 (NZ$10.25). Combined with other regularly provided entitlements and welfare benefits for low-income earners, this wage generally was adequate to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. There was a separate youth minimum wage of approximately $5.75 (NZ$8.20) for younger workers (ages 16 to 17). A majority of the work force earned more than the minimum wage.
Raising the minimum wage was a significant campaign issue during the September 2005 general election. Both the New Zealand First and the Green parties concluded agreements with the government to continue annual increases in the minimum wage with a target of $8.45 (NZ$12.00) by the end of 2008, economic conditions permitting.
Extensive laws and regulations govern health and safety issues. Employers are obliged to provide a safe and healthy work environment, and employees are responsible for their own safety and health, as well as ensuring that their actions do not harm others.
Workers have the legal right to strike over health and safety issues, as well as the right to withdraw from a dangerous work situation without jeopardy to continued employment. Department of Labor inspectors effectively enforced safety and health rules, and they had the power to shut down equipment if necessary. The Department of Labor normally investigated reports of unsafe or unhealthy working conditions within 24 hours of notification.