New Zealand

2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 1

New Zealand is a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to forced labor and to an extent, a source country for underage girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Foreign men aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters, mainly from Indonesia, are subjected to conditions of forced labor, including debt bondage, underpayment of wages, and some cases of physical and sexual abuse. Conditions experienced by workers on these boats include confiscation of passports, imposition of significant debts, physical violence, mental abuse, and excessive hours of work. Foreign women, including some from China and Southeast Asia, may be recruited from their home countries by labor agents for the purpose of prostitution and may be at risk of coercive practices. A small number of girls and boys, often of Maori or Pacific Islander descent, engage in street prostitution while some are victims of gang-controlled trafficking rings. The problem of street prostitution of children in South Auckland continues, in which some children were recruited by other girls or compelled by family members. The Christchurch School of Medicine’s 2007 survey reported that due to their age, children in forced prostitution are more likely to have suffered more violence, threats, rape, and theft. According to police reports, health personnel testified to several instances of underage women seeking emergency care for sexual violence. Some Asian and Pacific Islander individuals migrate voluntarily to New Zealand to work in the agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture sectors, and are subsequently subject to forced labor through fraudulent employment contracts they signed before arrival. In addition, some foreign workers report being charged excessive and escalating recruitment fees, experiencing unjustified salary deductions and restrictions on their movement, having their passports confiscated and contracts altered, or being subjected to a change in working conditions without their permission—all indicators of human trafficking.

The Government of New Zealand fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, the government has not prosecuted or convicted any trafficking offenders under its trafficking legislation in the last seven years, nor has it identified or certified any trafficking victims in the last nine years. A legal review of national anti-trafficking legislation to expand the availability of anti-trafficking prosecutorial tools, and to conform the existing New Zealand anti-trafficking laws with international standards, was submitted to the Cabinet; approval of the review’s recommendations remained pending at the end of the reporting year. While three trafficking investigations continued at the end of the reporting period, the government did not formally identify any persons as trafficking victims during the year.

Recommendations for New Zealand: Draft and enact legislation that will expand New Zealand’s current anti- trafficking legal framework to prohibit and adequately punish all forms of human trafficking; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute both sex and labor trafficking offenders; update and fully implement the 2009 national plan of action to reflect the current trafficking in persons situation in the country; make greater efforts to assess the full extent of sex and labor trafficking occurring in New Zealand; investigate and prosecute employment recruiting agencies or employers who subject foreign workers to debt bondage or involuntary servitude; increase efforts to proactively screen vulnerable populations, including women in prostitution, foreign workers, and illegal migrants, in order to identify and assist trafficking victims; increase efforts to identify and assist child sex trafficking victims; continue to make proactive efforts to identify victims of labor trafficking, particularly among populations of vulnerable foreign laborers; and establish an ongoing anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at clients of both the legal and illegal sex trades.


The Government of New Zealand demonstrated modest efforts to investigate suspected trafficking offenses—an increase from six reported last year to eight this year—but failed to convict and punish any trafficking offenders for a ninth consecutive year. New Zealand does not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of trafficking and the government’s recommendations from its review of the scope of these laws are still pending with the Cabinet. Current New Zealand statutes define human trafficking as a transnational offense akin to smuggling, though it does not include exploitation as an element of the crime, and criminalizes in the Crimes Act of 1961 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 does 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 and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, the government has never prosecuted suspected trafficking offenders under any of these laws. The Immigration Act prohibits retention or control of a person’s passport or any other travel or identity document, though there were no prosecutions for passport confiscation during the year.

During the reporting year, the government investigated eight alleged trafficking offenses; three of which were ongoing at the close of the reporting period. No prosecutions of suspected sex or labor trafficking offenders were initiated and no convictions of trafficking offenders were obtained. 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. The government prosecuted fishing companies on boats in the New Zealand economic zone for environmental offenses. Although the government investigated allegations of forced labor on the same boats, despite allegations of underpayment of wages, physical abuse, and threats against the crewmen, no prosecution resulted. Despite the lack of prosecutions and certification of trafficking victims, the government trained new customs officers on trafficking as part of the mandatory induction course and provided training sessions on victim identification and interviewing skills to frontline officers at various agencies. The government did not report any efforts to investigate or prosecute public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses.


The government demonstrated limited efforts to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government did not proactively identify any victims of trafficking. However, the government adopted a victim-centered approach to monitoring industries with high numbers of migrant workers. In the decriminalized sex industry, government labor inspectors periodically visit legal brothels to ensure that workers’ conditions satisfy New Zealand law. The government investigated allegations of underage children in prostitution, though no child victims were identified. Police referred other underage girls to social services from areas where street prostitution was common. One member of parliament reported discovering a child in prostitution as young as 13 years of age.

The country’s laws require that victims of crime, including human trafficking, receive access to and information about services including medical care, legal aid, and psycho-social counseling; the government offers these services to individuals. On a case-by-case basis, the New Zealand police provide amenities, such as food and shelter, to meet the immediate needs of victims of crime and refer them to NGOs or other service providers. Immigration officers and labor inspectors use templates that contain interrogation techniques; these were augmented with a new online learning module that raised awareness of trafficking; it is unclear whether any victims were identified using this method during this reporting year. New Zealand’s laws authorize temporary residency to victims of trafficking for up to 12 months and make them eligible for a variety of government-provided or government-funded services. Although not identified as trafficking victims, nine Indian students who alleged forced labor and underpayment of wages at an Auckland liquor store were provided work visas by the government for the pendency of the trial; the trial began in February 2013 and was still pending at the end of the reporting year. In addition, the government provided temporary work visas and collaborated with the New Zealand Charter Party to provide care to 35 crew members of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) during the investigations of alleged abuse onboard the vessels.


The Government of New Zealand increased its efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting year. After the March 2012 release of the ministerial inquiry report on forced labor aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating in New Zealand waters, the government implemented short- and long-term legislative and regulatory changes. In the short-term, the government suspended visas for the crews of foreign fishing vessels, effectively shutting down fishing operations until operators showed credible evidence that they are providing back pay to former crew and adequate pay to current crew. This reportedly resulted in significant economic losses for the fishing companies. Apparently as result, several fleets no longer fish in New Zealand waters. A new law, the adoption of which had been recommended by the ministerial inquiry into the allegations of trafficking of fishing boat crews, requires that by 2016, all FCVs fishing in New Zealand waters must operate as New Zealand-flagged vessels, and to extend the applicability of New Zealand’s health and labor laws to such vessels. Also in the wake of the inquiry, the duties of the existing fisheries observers to report on labor trafficking abuses was expanded; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is now empowered to suspend or cancel fishing registrations for noncompliance with relevant regulations. The previous Code of Practice on Foreign Fishing Crew to ensure fair payments is also being updated. In March 2013, a Ukrainian vessel re-designated under the New Zealand flag was the first vessel to comply with this new requirement. The government continued to distribute brochures on trafficking indicators to community groups in six languages through its regional offices; they were also distributed to those in the sex trade and the horticulture and viticulture industries. The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment developed a train-the-trainer module to raise awareness about trafficking crimes and to teach indicators to front-line officers, targeting vulnerable populations in migrant communities. The government did not take significant steps to reduce the overall demand for commercial sex acts in the country’s decriminalized commercial sex industry. The government provided anti-trafficking training to military personnel prior to their deployment abroad on 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. In November 2012, the government notified authorities in the Philippines of a New Zealand resident with previous convictions for child sex tourism who was in the Philippines. He was subsequently arrested for child rape in the Philippines, where he awaits trial.