New Zealand

   

Quality of Democracy

#8
Key Findings
With fair and transparent electoral policies and a strong rule of law, New Zealand receives a high overall ranking (rank 8) for the quality of its democracy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Voting policies are open and inclusive. Seven seats are currently designated for Māori representatives. Campaign financing is monitored by an independent commission, but private funding is criticized as being insufficiently transparent. Referendums on cannabis legalization and assisted dying will be held in 2020.

The broadcast media sector is largely controlled by international companies, with the print sector also effectively a duopoly. Civil rights and political liberties are strongly protected.. Anti-discrimination regulations are broad, but Māori and Pacific Islanders experience occasional discrimination in the education and health system. Some positive-discrimination measures in favor of these communities exist.

Following the Christchurch mosque shootings, a new government investigative unit has been tasked with finding and prosecuting “hate speech” online. Despite the lack of a written constitution, strong courts and a culture of respect for the law afford legal certainty. Corruption is very rare.

Electoral Processes

#12

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
9
New Zealand has a rich history of free and fair elections and the electoral process is characterized by a very high level of integrity. The registration procedure for political parties and individual candidates in New Zealand, as specified in the 1993 Electoral Act, is fair and transparent. Following the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Act 2010, the tasks of the Electoral Commission and of the Chief Electoral Office have been combined within the Electoral Commission, which started work in October 2010. The Election Integrity Project, which measures each state of the electoral cycle by standardized 100-point scores, rated the integrity quality of 2017 parliamentary election as “very high” and noted especially high quality in the areas of party registration, candidate procedure, district boundaries, vote counting and autonomy of the election management body. However, deficits were noted in regard to voter registration, media access for political parties and campaign financing.
The Electoral Act specifies that registered political parties follow democratic procedures when selecting parliamentary candidates. While the two major parties adopt a mixture of delegate and committee systems when making their selections, the Greens give their membership the final say. The other small parties, by contrast, tend to be more centralized – both in the way they select constituency candidates and in the compilation of their party lists. In September 2018, parliament passed a controversial amendment to the Electoral Integrity Bill (so-called “waka-jumping” bill). The bill requires that members of parliament who are expelled from or quit their party will automatically lose their seat, thereby triggering a by-election. Critics argue that this amendment will enable political parties to limit freedom of speech and ignore or reverse the will of voters. Supporters, on the other hand, argue that allowing parliamentarians to leave their parties while remaining in parliament distorts the proportionality of parliament and frustrates the will of affected voters.

Citations:
Miller, Raymond, ‘Selecting Candidates,’ in Miller, Party Politics in New Zealand, Oxford, 2005, pp 109-126.
Norris, Pippa, Thomas Wynter and Sarah Cameron. March 2018. Corruption and Coercion: The Year in Elections 2017. https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017/
McCulloch, Craig. 27 September 2018. Waka-jumping bill passes into law after heated debate. https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/367427/waka-jumping-bill-passes-into-law-after-heated-debate
New Zealand Parliament. Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_75706/electoral-integrity-amendment-bill

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
8
According to the 2017 Election Integrity report, media coverage (together with campaign finance) was evaluated to be relatively poor in comparison with equivalent democracies in Asia/Oceania and western Europe. With a score of 48 (on a scale from 0 to 100), New Zealand was evaluated worse than South Korea (56) and Japan (52). Major issues are the allocation of election broadcasting time based on criteria that favor the two largest parties, leading to unequal access to funds for political campaign broadcasts and a potentially undue influence exercised by non-party actors. Although in some previous elections televised debates included the leaders of all parliamentary parties, during the 2017 general election the main debates were restricted to the leaders of the two major parties, with the leaders of the largest of the small parties being invited to debate separately (NZ First’s Winston Peters declined to participate). A formal complaint over the exclusion of small parties from the debate was rejected by the courts. In addition to concerns about the fair treatment of minor parties in a multiparty system, the two-tiered arrangement was criticized for thwarting discussion about possible combinations for any future multiparty government. In fact, in its report on the 2017 election, the Election Commission again recommended “that Parliament considers whether the allocation criteria and the current broadcasting regime are fit for purpose.”

Citations:
Report of the Election Commission on the 2017 General Election. April 2018. https://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/plain-page/attachments/report_o f_the_2017_general_election.pdf
Pippa Norris, Thomas Wynter and Sarah Cameron. March 2018. Corruption and Coercion: The Year in Elections 2017. https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017/

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
10
New Zealand’s electoral process is inclusive and voter registration and voting process is non-discriminatory. Since 1974, the voting age has been 18 years. Discussions concerning lowering the voting age to 16 have seen little progress. Permanent residents of 12 months standing are given the right to vote in national elections. For those who move offshore, they remain eligible to vote, providing they return home every twelve months. Citizens who live elsewhere retain their eligibility for three years. While it is compulsory to register to vote, the act of voting is voluntary. Māori may register to vote on either the Māori electoral roll or the general roll. There are seven designated Māori seats in the current legislature (separate Māori representation was introduced in 1867). Additional Māori representatives are elected on the general roll. Electoral boundaries are redistributed every five years. Beyond legal regulations, there are focused and ongoing activities – by the Electoral Commission in particular – to increase political efficacy and turnout by ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, as well as young voters. Whereas electoral turnout in the postwar period tended to fluctuate between 85% and 91%, in 2014 turnout increased for the first time since 2005. This positive trend continued with turnout for the 2017 election reaching 79.8%, with many voters (47%) voting in advance. Registering for an election can be done electronically. Registered voters then receive an “easy vote” pack with further voting information. However, the Election Commission Report on the 2017 election mentions the need for further “streamlining [of] the special vote process to reduce the impact of the growth of special votes on the timeliness of election results, providing a more accessible online enrollment option to reduce late enrollment, removing restrictions on voting place locations, and addressing barriers that affect voters on the unpublished roll, remote and disabled voters.” Under current rules, prison inmates are barred from voting. In August 2019, the Waitangi Tribunal urged the government to change the law, arguing that the blanket ban on prisoners’ voting rights affects Māori disproportionally (in 2018, Māori were 11.4 times more likely than non-Māori to have been removed from the electoral roll). At the end of November 2019, the justice minister (Andrew Little) – in response to the Tribunal’s recommendation – announced the government’s intention to restore voting rights to people sentenced to less than three years of prison.

Citations:
Access 2011: Accessibility Action Plan for the 2011 General Election and Referendum on the
Voting System (Wellington: Electoral Commission 2011).
Raymond Miller, Democracy in New Zealand, Auckland, Auckland University Press, 2015, chapters 1, 5 and 9.
Report of the Election Commission on the 2017 General Election. April 2018. https://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/plain-page/attachments/report_of_the_2017_general_election.pdf
Macandrew, Waitangi Tribunal calls for urgent law change to allow prisoners to vote in 2020 election (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/114914807/waitangi-tribunal-calls-for-urgent-law-change-to-allow-prisoners-to-vote-in-2020-election)
Little, Andrew (2019). https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/prisoner-voting-rights-be-restored-ahead-2020-general-election

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
8
Party financing and electoral campaign financing are monitored by the Electoral Commission. Registered parties have upper limits regarding election campaign financing (including by-elections). Upper limits for anonymous donations as well as donations from abroad are comparatively low (NZD 1,500). The long-standing public-private mix of party financing continues to draw criticism. Private funding in particular is criticized for being insufficiently transparent and unfair to less well-off parties or smaller parties lacking access to parliamentary sources of personnel and funding. According to a research report published in late 2017, more than half of all donations over NZD 1,500 in 2011-2016 came as donations of NZD 15,000 or more. Unsurprisingly, the National party received more donations than Labour, NZ First and the Greens combined, mainly due to the large number of donations of more than NZD5,000. In October 2018, the Justice Minister announced that his government would consider changing the political funding rules, including lowering the threshold for anonymous donations (NZD 1,000), introducing a cap for individual donations (NZD 35,000) and banning overseas donations. The latter proposal came amid allegations of Chinese interference in New Zealand politics (i.e., in October 2018, Simon Bridges – leader of the National party – was accused of concealing an NZD 100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman with strong links to Beijing).

Citations:
Max Rashbrooke. 2017. Bridges Both Ways: Transforming the Openness of New Zealand Government. Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.
NZ Herald. 2018..Government considering changing political funding rules. 23 October 2018. https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/larry-williams-drive/audio/max-rushbrooke-government-considering-changing-political-funding-rules/
Smyth and White, China donations claims throw New Zealand politics into turmoil, Financial Times (https://www.ft.com/content/7f1eba1c-d1e8-11e8-a9f2-7574db66bcd5)

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
5
Citizens have the right to propose a national referendum. Legally non-binding Citizens’ Initiated Referendums (CIRs) were first introduced in 1993, the year the government held its own binding referendum on the reform of the electoral system. Most CIRs are initiated by individuals or small groups. While a total of 46 CIR petitions have been launched to date, only five have come to a vote, with other proposals either failing to meet the signature target (10% of registered voters within 12 months) or having lapsed. All five referendums secured majority support but were subsequently rejected by the government in office at the time. Whereas CIR supporters contend that the “will of the majority” is being ignored, a consensus exists among leaders of the major political parties that the non-binding provision in CIRs should be retained.

Government-initiated referendums, which are often binding, are used to address questions such as the introduction of a new electoral system (1992 and 1993), reviewing the electoral system (2011), and making changes to the design of the national flag (2015–2016).

After the 2017 election, Labour and its minor coalition partners (the Greens and NZ First) agreed to hold a referendum on the legalization of recreational cannabis at the 2020 election. This referendum is going ahead, along with a second referendum on the End of Life Choice bill. While the government claims that the result will be binding, legal experts have questioned whether this can be guaranteed given the referendum is being held during the 2020 election, at which point a new parliament will have been elected. The National Party has not ruled out ignoring the cannabis referendum result if it comes to government in 2020. However, it may be difficult for them to ignore the End of Life referendum result as that bill has been initiated by their intended coalition partner, the ACT party.

Citations:
Cooke, Explainer: The cannabis referendum and why it isn’t binding, Stuff (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/112525322/explainer-the-cannabis-referendum-and-why-it-isnt-binding)

Access to Information

#15

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
9
New Zealand performs well in terms of media independence. In the 2019 World Press Freedom Index – published by Reporters Without Borders – New Zealand is ranked seventh, up one place on 2019. The report highlights that “its independence and pluralism are often undermined by the profit imperatives of media groups trying to cut costs.” However, the media is considered to be free from political pressure and intervention. This assessment also applies to state-owned broadcast networks: Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand (RNZ). Despite being identified as a public broadcaster, TVNZ is fully commercially funded. The question of whether to make TVNZ non-commercial or steer it toward a more public service-oriented role keeps coming up in the political debate. The two major print and online media providers sought to merge but this was twice denied by the Commerce Commission, with concerns about democracy cited as one of the reasons.

Citations:
Anthony, Government working to “strengthen public media,” but will TVNZ remove ads?, Stuff (https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/115127719/government-working-to-strengthen-public-media-but-will-tvnz-remove-ads)
Reporters Without Borders, New Zealand: Press freedom threatened by business imperatives (https://rsf.org/en/new-zealand)

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
4
New Zealand’s media market is only partly competitive. In the TV segment, competition is mainly between Television New Zealand (TVNZ) – which, despite being publicly owned, is run on a commercial basis – and two international media giants: U.S.-owned MediaWorks and Australian-owned Sky. Media pluralism is further threatened by MediaWorks announcing (in October 2019) that its Three network, with a significant news and current affairs element under the banner of Newshub, is for sale. In the meantime, the commercial radio market is largely divided up between MediaWorks and New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME), with publicly owned Radio New Zealand acting as a third player. Finally, a near-duopoly also exists in the newspaper and magazine publishing industry, where the market is essentially split between NZME and Australian-owned Stuff (renamed from Fairfax in 2018). While NZME owns the leading daily newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, Stuff controls the country’s second- and third-highest circulation daily newspapers, The Dominion Post and The Press. Media concentration in New Zealand would have been even worse, if the Commerce Commission had not blocked a proposed merger between NZME and Stuff – a move that was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in October 2018. The merged entity of NZME and Fairfax Media would have had a readership of 3.7 million New Zealanders and controlled more than 90% of the print media market.

There are several online media outlets that provide alternative source of news and information (The Spinoff and Newsroom) however, these outlets register much lower site visit numbers than the major news outlets.

Citations:
Newsroom, NZME and Stuff pull plug on merger (https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/10/23/290277/nzme-pulls-plug-on-stuff-merger)
RNZ, MediaWorks to sell TV Three: “Everyone is in a state of shock” (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/business/401246/mediaworks-to-sell-tv-three-everyone-is-in-a-state-of-shock)

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
8
Access to government information is regulated by the Official Information Act (OIA) from 1982, which has been reviewed several times. There are restrictions with regard to the protection of the public interest (for example, national security or international relations) and the preservation of personal privacy. There are clear procedures for how queries are handled by public bodies, including a time frame of 20 working days to respond. The Office of the Ombudsman reviews denials of access upon request. Following a number of precedent-setting decisions by the office in recent years, access to official information is now far-reaching, including access to politically sensitive communications between political advisers and ministers as soon as these communications are made.

New Zealand’s OIA scores 94 out of 150 according to the 2019 Global Right to Information (RTI) rating, which puts it ahead of many other OECD countries, including Australia (84) and the United States (83). The RTI concludes that New Zealand’s access-to-information regime “functions better in practice than its legal framework would suggest.”

The media continue to demand changes to the OIA and journalists routinely vent their frustration on social media using the hashtag #fixtheOIA. In particular, government agencies have been criticized for taking longer periods of time to respond to information requests than allowed for by the OIA. However, recent data suggests that processes are improving. According to data released by the OIA Ombudsman, the number of complaints shows a downward trend. In the six months from 1 January to 30 June 2019, the Office of the Ombudsman says it received 693 OIA, down 30 (4.1%) on the previous six months.

Citations:
Global Right to Information Rating, New Zealand (https://www.rti-rating.org/country-data/New%20Zealand/)
New Zealand Law Society, OIA complaints to Ombudsman show decrease (https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/news-and-communications/latest-news/news/oia-complaints-to-ombudsman-show-decrease)

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#6

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
8
New Zealand has a well-institutionalized liberal democracy with fully implemented and protected civil rights. Based on the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993, the Human Rights Commission actively promotes compliance with civil and human rights by public bodies and in society. The 2019 Freedom in the World Report – published by the U.S.-based think tank Freedom House – awards New Zealand an almost perfect score of 58/60 on the “civil liberties” dimension.

However, this does not mean that there are no infringements of citizens’ civil rights in New Zealand. For one, the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to conduct surveillance on New Zealanders has recently been the subject of scrutiny by civil rights, internet and legal groups, including the New Zealand Law Society. New Zealand continues to be an active member of the so-called Five Eyes network, a government-level alliance that shares intelligence information on a global scale. The New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill 2016 modifies existing legislation and enhances transparency of New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies. The introduction of the bill resulted in a significant increase in the scope and powers of the GCSB. According to the Human Rights Commission, although the bill represents a significant improvement to legislation, “there are aspects of the bill which are still of concern,” notably the definition of national security. The 2017 Intelligence and Security Act brings the GCSB and the NZ Security Intelligence Service (SIS) under the same law. In a fundamental shift in policy, it permits the GCSB to monitor New Zealanders if national security issues are at stake.

A further line of critique concerns the treatment of prison inmates. An independent report published by the Human Rights Commission in 2017 highlights that solitary confinement and restraint practices were not always used as emergency last resort tools, as required by international law. The use of tie-down beds and/or waist restraints in at-risk units was found to amount to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. Following the report, the Corrections Department decided in April 2019 to ban their use of tie-down beds prisons.

Citations:
NZ Intelligence and Security Bill 2016. New Zealand parliament https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-digests/document/51PLLaw23781/new-zealand-intelligence-and-security-bill-2016-bills (accessed 13 September, 2016).
Spying reforms allowing GCSB to spy on Kiwis pass into law with little opposition. New Zealand Herald. 21 March 2017 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11822634) (accessed January 16, 2018).
Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2017/2018: New Zealand (https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/new-zealand/report-new-zealand/)
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2019: New Zealand (https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/new-zealand)
Human Rights Commission, Independent report highlights urgent need for action on seclusion and restraint practices (https://www.hrc.co.nz/news/independent-report-highlights-urgent-need-action-seclusion-and-restraint-practices/)

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
10
Political liberties are effectively protected under the Bill of Rights Act 1990. Those who believe that their rights have been infringed upon can file a suit before the High Court. Although the bill has the status of ordinary law and can be amended or repealed by a simple majority of parliament, every effort has been made to protect and enhance the integrity of the bill as a fundamental feature of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. In addition, the New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties is an active, non-governmental organization that promotes these liberties. In its 2019 Freedom in the World report, U.S.-based think tank Freedom House awards New Zealand a perfect score of 40/40 on the dimension of “political rights.” After the right-wing terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch in March 2019, the New Zealand government set up a dedicated investigative unit to find and prosecute “hate speech” online. Under existing terrorism legislation, the shooter’s 74-page manifesto was classified as “objectionable,” making it a crime to hold, share or quote from. While critics argue that these steps threaten the freedom of expression, supporters of the government’s actions point at the radicalizing effects of extremist online content.

Citations:
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2019: New Zealand (https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/new-zealand)
RNZ, Government announces $17 million to target violent extremist content online (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/400957/government-announces-17-million-to-target-violent-extremist-content-online)

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
8
Anti-discrimination legislation is outlined in a number of acts, including the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the Privacy Act 1993, and the Human Rights Amendment Act 2011 (establishing the position of a full-time disability rights commissioner within the Human Rights Commission). The Human Rights Act protects all people in New Zealand from discrimination including on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

What is more, New Zealand has, for a long time, pursued positive discrimination measures to address the structural disadvantages to which the Māori are subject. The electoral system for parliamentary elections has, since the implementation of the Māori Representation Act in 1867, included Māori electorates specially set up for people of Māori ethnicity or ancestry who choose to place themselves on a separate electoral roll (currently, there are seven Māori electorates). In 1975, the Treaty of Waitangi Act established the Waitangi Tribunal to redress grievances that Māori face as a result of colonization. In particular, the Waitangi Tribunal investigates Māori land claims and comments on government policies that have the potential to affect the Māori population. New Zealand law also imposes Māori quotas in certain areas, such as in fishing and tertiary education.

However, these measures have had little effect, as Māori continue to experience significant disadvantages in a wide range of ways. Compared to Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent), Māori suffer worse health, have lower education attainments, employment and income, and are more likely to be victims of crime. Māori are also disproportionately represented in the penal system, accounting for just over half of the prison population as of December 2018.

In 2018, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed serious concerns about racial discrimination. The Committee called attention to the fact that Waitangi Tribunal recommendations are not binding and are frequently ignored, and recommended that the New Zealand government “take immediate steps” to work with Māori in developing the constitutional role of the Treaty of Waitangi.

In addition, New Zealand has come under international scrutiny for the human rights situation for the LGBTQI community. In January 2019, the United Nation’s Human Right’s Council highlighted that, in its current state, the Human Rights Act does not explicitly protect people from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, it only prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex.

Citations:
Human Rights Amendment Bill 2011 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2011).
New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 1994).
Hurihanganui, Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendations frequently ignored – UN report, RNZ (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/354085/waitangi-tribunal-s-recommendations-frequently-ignored-un-report)
Murphy, NZ told to improve human rights of LGBTQI people, RNZ (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/380687/nz-told-to-improve-human-rights-of-lgbtqi-people)

Rule of Law

#2

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
10
New Zealand follows the British tradition and, therefore, its constitution is not found in a single constitutional text. Instead, the constitution includes a mix of conventions, statute laws and common laws within the framework of a largely unwritten constitution. In addition, the Treaty of Waitangi is increasingly seen as the founding document of New Zealand. The Constitution Act 1986 is a key formal statement of New Zealand’s system of government, in particular the roles of the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Other important legislation includes the Electoral Act 1993, the State Sector Act 1988, the Supreme Court Act 2003, the Judicature Act 1908, the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, the Official Information Act 1982, the Ombudsmen Act 1975, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and the Human Rights Act 1993.
The scattered and incomplete nature of these documents notwithstanding, New Zealand constantly receives the highest scores in comparative measures of the quality, consistency and transparency of the rule of law.

Citations:
McLean, Janet and Alison Quentin-Baxter. 2018. The Realm of New Zealand: The Sovereign, The Governor-General, The Crown. Auckland: The University of Auckland Press.

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
10
New Zealand does not have a Constitutional Court with the absolute right of judicial review. While it is the role of the judiciary to interpret the laws and challenge the authority of the executive where it exceeds its parliamentary powers, the judiciary cannot declare parliamentary decisions unconstitutional. This is because under the Westminster system of government, which is very common among Commonwealth countries, parliament is sovereign. On the other hand, the courts may ask parliament to provide clarification of its decisions. The judicial system is hierarchical, with the possibility of appeal. Since 2003, New Zealand’s highest court has been the Supreme Court, taking the place of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London that had in the past heard appeals from New Zealand. Still, legislative action is not justiciable in the High Court under the existing constitutional arrangements; parliament remains supreme in law. Yet, there are reform discussions which refer to the enhancement of judicial power to consider the constitutionality of legislation, and to invalidate it where necessary. An institution specific to the country is the Māori Land Court, which hears cases relating to Māori land (about 5% of the total area of the country). Equally important is a strong culture of respect for the legal system.

Citations:
http://www.justice.govt.nz/courts/māori-land-court (accessed October 20, 2015).
Pohlmann, Martin. 2017. he Development of Judicial Review LLM RESEARCH PAPER LAWS 529: CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE AND GOVERNMENT LAW. Victoria: University of Wellington. https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10063/6320/paper_access.pdf?sequence=2

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
8
All judicial appointments are made by the governor-general based on the recommendation of the attorney-general. The convention is that the attorney-general recommends new appointments, with the exception of the chief justice, Māori Land Court and court of appeal judges. Appointment of the chief justice is recommended by the prime minister.
The appointment process followed by the attorney-general is not formally regulated. That said, there is a strong constitutional convention in New Zealand that, in deciding who is to be appointed, the attorney-general acts independently of party political considerations. There is a prior process of consultation, however, that is likely to include senior members of the judiciary and legal profession. Judges enjoy security of tenure and great judicial independence. In 2012, a review by the New Zealand Law Commission recommended that greater transparency and accountability be given to the appointment process through the publication by the chief justice of an annual report, as well as the publication by the attorney-general of an explanation of the process by which members of the judiciary are appointed and the qualifications they are expected to hold. So far, however, the recommendations of the Law Commission have not been implemented.

Citations:
Paul Bellamy and John Henderson, Democracy in New Zealand (Christchurch: MacMillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, 2002).
New Zealand Law Commission, ‘Review of the Judicature Act 1908: Toward a New Courts Act’ (R126, Wellington, 2012).
Benjamin Sutter. 2015. Appointment, Discipline and Removel of Judges: A Comparison of the Swiss and New Zealand Judiciaries. 46 VUWLR, pp. 267-306.
Stuff. 2018. Justice Helen Winkelmann appointed Chief Justice. December 17. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/109416961/justice-helen-winkelmann-appointed-chief-justice

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
10
New Zealand’s public sector is perceived to be one of the least corrupt in the world. There is a very low risk of encountering corruption in the public service, police or the judicial system. Prevention of corruption is strongly safeguarded by such independent institutions as the auditor general and the Office of the Ombudsman. The 2018 World Bank Governance indicators put New Zealand in the top 0.5 percentile regarding “control of corruption.” However, this does not mean that the country is free of corruption. For example, Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey 2017 found that approximately 20% of New Zealand companies surveyed had come across some form of corruption. There are also concerns about “revolving door” practices, whereby individuals shift between government positions and private sector jobs, and vice versa. In addition, critics have pointed out that local government struggles with issues of transparency, accountability and financial management to a much greater extent than political institutions at the national level.

Citations:
Matthewman S (2017) ‘Look no further than the exterior’: Corruption in New Zealand.
International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 6(4): 71‐85. DOI:
10.5204/ijcjsd.v6i4.439.
Deloitte. 2017. One step ahead – Obtaining and maintaining the edge Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey 2017. Australia and New Zealand.https://www2.deloitte.com/nz/bribery-corruption-survey
Edwards, Political Roundup: The Government’s revolving door for lobbyists, New Zealand Herald (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11998380)
Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 (https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018)
World Bank, Worldwide Governance Indicators (https://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/Home/Reports)
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