The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The Crimes Act of 1961, as amended, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Section 98D (trafficking in persons) criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine not exceeding 500,000 New Zealand dollars ($337,150), or both; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, 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. The government reported initiating a process to amend this provision, which could strengthen the government’s ability to effectively investigate the sex trafficking of children. However, Section 98AA criminalized all forms of child sex trafficking under its “dealing in persons” provision and prescribed penalties of up 14 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government sometimes utilized Sections 20 and 21 of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA), which criminalized the facilitating, assisting, causing, or encouraging a child to provide commercial sex, in addition to receiving earnings from commercial sex acts provided by a child. The PRA prescribed a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment for the sex trafficking of children.
During the reporting period, the government initiated investigations for eight potential cases of trafficking, did not initiate any new prosecutions, and convicted two traffickers; this was compared with two investigations, five trafficking-related prosecutions, and eight trafficking-related convictions in the previous reporting period. The government primarily focused its efforts on investigating potential cases of forced labor and approached sex trafficking via labor law enforcement measures, rather than pursuing sex trafficking cases as criminal violations. In a case initially investigated in 2018, a court convicted an offender under the trafficking statute in March 2020, for exploiting 13 Samoan victims in forced labor; as of the end of the reporting period, sentencing was scheduled for July 2020. The government convicted a New Zealand man engaged in child sex tourism overseas and sentenced him to six years and six months’ imprisonment. Two offenders convicted during the previous reporting period were sentenced to four years and five months’ and two years and six months’ imprisonment in May 2019. In November 2019, after serving a third of their nine-and-a-half-year sentence, a parole board authorized the release of a trafficker convicted in 2016 for exploiting 15 victims in forced labor. The government also reported that in 2019 the New Zealand Customs Child Exploitation Operations Team arrested and prosecuted 16 offenders for border offenses relating to the sexual exploitation of children; however, it was not clear how many of these involved trafficking.
In December 2019, the government formed an anti-trafficking operations group, composed of immigration authorities, police, and the children’s ministry, to increase law enforcement coordination. As in previous years, authorities continued to report a lack of sufficient resources, and a lack of understanding of trafficking among some front-line officers, as well as high evidentiary and procedural standards, which may have resulted in the prosecution of some potential traffickers under different statutes, including non-criminal labor violations. The labor inspectorate investigated forced labor complaints but worked mainly within the civil legal system, contributing to the lack of criminal prosecution of forced labor crimes. Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) serious offences unit investigated trafficking cases but were limited to investigating only those cases in which immigration violations were also identified, and police did not report vigorously investigating perpetrators of domestic trafficking, including of those who exploit New Zealand children in sex trafficking. The Ministry of Business, Immigration, and Employment (MBIE) required immigration officers, labor inspectors, and other staff likely to work trafficking cases to complete an online training module on human trafficking. New Zealand Police (NZP) required anti-trafficking training for all detectives and included a trafficking and smuggling chapter in its police manual, and held a training workshop with INZ during the reporting period. Nonetheless, officials reported a lack of trafficking awareness among front line officers. MBIE reported it completed a training-needs assessment to design a specialist training program for border officers and investigators. The government did not report training prosecutors or judiciary officials. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.