The Laws of New Zealand (available on Lexis Advance) is an encyclopaedic resource, and a good starting point for any research involving NZ law. It is arranged alphabetically by topic, and includes commentary, leading cases and legislation.
To access the human rights commentary in The Laws of New Zealand, scroll through the alphabetical topics to HUMAN RIGHTS and then use the + signs to open up sub-topics.
The two principal pieces of legislation dealing with human rights protection in New Zealand are:
The Bill of Rights affirms, protects and promotes human rights and fundamental freedoms in New Zealand, and affirms New Zealand's commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Bill of Rights groups civil and political rights under the four broad headings of Life and security of the person, Democratic and civil rights, Non-discrimination and minority rights, and Search, arrest and detention.
The preferred interpretation of legislation is to give it a meaning that is consistent with the rights and freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights (s 6). The Attorney General must bring to the attention of Parliament any provision in a Bill introduced into the House that appears to be inconsistent with any of the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights (s 7). See more on the s 7 reporting process on the Department of Justice website.
The Human Rights Act aims to protect human rights in New Zealand in general accordance with United Nations Human Rights treaties. The Act makes it unlawful for the Government, related persons and bodies, or persons or bodies acting with legal authority, to discriminate in proscribed areas, such as employment, access to services and education. The prohibited grounds of discrimination (s 21) include sex, race, religion, age, sexual orientation and political opinion.
Human rights issues may be raised in all New Zealand courts and tribunals. In the following databases, you can search decisions from multiple courts and tribunals, as well as those which specifically determine disputes under the Human Rights Act ie: the Human Rights Review Tribunal, the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Decisions from these courts and tribunals can be searched simultaneously, or by individual court or tribunal.
New Zealand follows a dualist approach to the domestic effect of international treaties. This is similar in approach to other Commonwealth countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The dualist system means that in order for the treaty obligations to be given the force of law domestically, they cannot simply be ratified - they must be incorporated into domestic legislation.
However, the International Bill of Rights (comprising the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the ICCPR and the ICESCR) is binding on New Zealand as a matter of international law (see the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Articles 26-27). The other core rights treaties (of which New Zealand has ratified 5 of the 7) all contain obligations to amend domestic legislation to comply with treaty obligations.
In general, New Zealand courts apply a rule of statutory interpretation whereby domestic statutes are read, so far as their wording allows, consistently with international obligations (see eg: Huang v Minister of Immigration  NZCA 377;  2 NZLR 700, and the cases cited therein) because there is a presumption that Parliament does not intend to enact legislation that is inconsistent with New Zealand's unincorporated international obligations. For more on this topic, see eg: Alice Osman, 'Demanding Attention: the Roles of Unincorporated International Instruments on Judicial Reasoning' (2014) 122 New Zealand Journal of Public and International Law 345-377. An unpublished version of this article is freely available online. See also Margaret Wilson, Judy McGregor and Sylvia Bell, ‘The Impact of Economic and Social Human Rights in New Zealand Case Law’ (2015) 21(1) Australian Journal of Human Rights 143-165, in which the authors argue, with specific reference to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, that courts are reluctant to grant remedies without this treaty being explicitly incorporated into the domestic law.
Check New Zealand's ratification status and reservations of the core human rights treaties in the UN Treaty Collection Status of Treaties database.
In addition to supporting the principles enunciated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, New Zealand is a party to seven of the nine core UN human rights treaties:
UN Treaty Body Reports
The New Zealand Country Report includes information on the latest Universal Periodic Review, and the status of the country in relation to UN Charter-based bodies and Treaty bodies.
The UN Universal Human Rights Index provides access to country-specific human rights information emanating from international human rights mechanisms in the United Nations system: the Treaty Bodies, the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Amnesty International Annual Country Reports
Human Rights Watch annual World Reports
Freedom House's Freedom in the World - an annual study of political rights and civil liberties
US Department of State annual Human Rights Reports
In the latest Rule of Law Index from the World Justice Project, New Zealand ranked 9th out of 102 countries for its adherence to protection of fundamental human rights. See the New Zealand statistics on the Rule of Law website.
The factors taken into account in assessing New Zealand's human rights rank are those established under the Universal Declaration:
See the full Rule of Law Index for all countries here.
To find scholarly journal articles on New Zealand human rights law, irrespective of the journals in which the articles are published, we recommend using:
For more information on finding journal articles on New Zealand law, and for links to individual New Zealand legal journals, see the Journals tab in the New Zealand Law Research Guide.
The New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice Working Paper Series provides an online forum where scholars and practitioners can disseminate their research and practical experiences regarding human rights. The Working Paper Series is administered by the Centre based at the University of Auckland.
Newsfeed from the NZ Human Rights Commission: