The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The Crimes Act of 1961, as amended, criminalized sex and labor trafficking. Inconsistent with international law, the trafficking provision of the Crimes Act, section 98D, required a demonstration of deception or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. However, section 98AA of the Crimes Act criminalized all forms of child sex trafficking under its “dealing in persons” provision. Section 98D prescribed sentences of up to 20 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent penalties. While section 98D technically allowed for penalties resulting solely in a fine for sex trafficking of adults—which is not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape—the absence of recent trafficking convictions resulting solely in a fine, coupled with the Sentencing Act of 2002, indicated such penalties were not in fact permissible. Section 98AA also prescribed a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for child sex trafficking, which was commensurate with the penalties imposed for rape.
During the reporting period, the government initiated three trafficking investigations, initiated prosecutions of six defendants, and obtained two convictions, compared to seven investigations, four prosecutions, and two convictions in the previous reporting period. The government pursued human trafficking charges against two defendants in one case involving forced labor, exploitation charges against one defendant, and prosecuted three defendants for child sex trafficking. The government convicted two restaurant owners on exploitation charges under the Immigration Act and sentenced them to 26 months imprisonment and eight months home detention, respectively, and ordered each to pay 7,200 New Zealand dollars ($5,120) in restitution. Authorities reported a lack of sufficient resources, as well as high evidentiary and procedural standards, resulted in prosecutors charging some suspected traffickers under different statutes, such as labor violations. The immigration department established a trafficking intelligence and prosecution unit. The government continued to train law enforcement officials on trafficking, and in 2018 included an anti-trafficking component within mandatory training for criminal investigators; it did not report training prosecutors or judiciary officials. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.