Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Praise New Zealand’s Early Childhood Education Subsidies, Ask about the High Rates of Youth Suicides, as well as Racism and Bullying in Schools
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of New Zealand, with Committee Experts praising the State’s early childhood education subsidies and raising questions about the high rate of youth suicides, as well as racism and bullying in schools.
Ann Skelton, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, said it was commendable that the Government subsidised children who attended early childhood education. However, some Māori and Pacific Islander children were still missing out. What was being done to strengthen the early education workforce?
Rinchen Chophel, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, expressed concern about the high rates of suicide and discrimination of children from disadvantaged groups. Male children were disproportionately affected by suicide. What legal and other measures were in place to address the situation? Did the Government intend to establish a suicide prevention office?
Ms. Skelton said that racism was still experienced by Māori children in schools. What was being done to address this? What results had measures to prevent bullying in schools had? When would the racism action plan be published, and did it have a specific focus on children?
Addressing the issue of suicide, the delegation said that it was a major public health issue that disproportionately affected Māori men. A suicide prevention office had been established. The office worked with Māori communities, and had developed a suicide prevention strategy that promoted the development of the suicide prevention workforce and monitoring of measures to prevent suicide.
On racism in schools, the delegation said that the Government was working with Māori and Pacific Islanders and the Human Rights Commission to develop an action plan to prevent racial discrimination in schools. The delegation noted that schools were legally required to take all reasonable steps to eliminate bullying. Information on best practices for addressing bullying was distributed to schools, and a bully prevention advisory group had been established.
In closing remarks, José Angel Rodríguez Reyes, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for New Zealand, said that new problems had been identified during the dialogue, and these needed to be addressed. The Committee’s concluding observations would aim to address these problems and help to improve the situation for all children in New Zealand.
In his closing remarks, Chappie Te Kani, Chief Executive, Ministry for Children of New Zealand and head of the delegation, welcomed the Committee’s support for the New Zealand Government in achieving its aspirations for children. The Government, Mr. Te Kani said, had a clear roadmap for addressing future challenges and for ensuring that future generations had their rights upheld and had the opportunity to thrive and prosper. Achieving this vision would require bold changes to how the Government and communities worked together. Children, young people, communities and tribes needed to not only have a voice but also have the tools and support to thrive.
The delegation of New Zealand consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Social Development; Ministry of Health; Ministry for Children; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Māori Development; and the Permanent Mission of New Zealand to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of New Zealand at the end of its ninety-second session on 3 February. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 2 February at 3 p.m. to hold an informal meeting with States.
The Committee has before it the sixth periodic report of New Zealand (CRC/C/NZL/6).
Presentation of Report
CHAPPIE TE KANI, Chief Executive, Ministry for Children of New Zealand and head of the delegation, said Aotearoa New Zealand had a population of 5.1 million people, of whom approximately 1.28 million or 25 per cent were under the age of 19. New Zealand was a welfare State with a publicly funded, mandatory education system. It had a public health system that was free to children under the age of 14 years old and a child protection system called Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children.
New Zealand was making progress in reducing child poverty. In 2018, approximately 16.5 per cent of children were living in low-income households. In 2021, this rate was reduced to 13.6 per cent. Approximately 22,000 children were no longer experiencing material hardship compared to the 2017-2018 fiscal year. These numbers were still too high, so the Government was making further efforts to address the issue.
Since New Zealand’s last examination, the new Oranga Tamariki Ministry, responsible for children in the care and protection system, was set up in 2017. A 5.5 billion New Zealand dollar families’ package was introduced in 2018, which provided additional financial assistance to low- and middle-income families with children. The Government had increased the family tax credit; introduced the best start tax credit to help families with costs in a child’s early years; and increased paid parental leave to 26 weeks, as well as the rate of the orphan’s benefit, unsupported child’s benefit and foster care allowance. Doctors’ visits were made free for children under 14 years old in 2018.
The Government passed legislation in 2019 to help ensure that children living in rentals were in warm, dry and healthy homes. In 2018, the Child Poverty Reduction Act was passed, and the 2014 Children’s Act amended. The Child Poverty Reduction Act required the Government to set intermediate and long targets on a defined set of child poverty measures, and report annually on those measures and child poverty indicators. The child and youth wellbeing strategy, introduced in 2019, aimed to give younger generations the opportunity to thrive and prosper. Through the wellbeing budget of 2019, more than 3.5 billion New Zealand dollars were committed to addressing family and sexual violence; helping young people to live independently; and increasing funding to schools in lower socioeconomic areas.
In 2019, the Government released its vision for national education. This vision aimed for, among other objectives, a world class, inclusive public education system that met the needs of the diverse population. The Education and Training Act was passed in 2020 to bring this vision into effect. In the past 12 months, the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Bill, which provided an independent monitoring and complaints oversight regime for Oranga Tamariki, and the Children and Young People's Commission Bill were passed. In July this year, the Child and Young People’s Commission would be established, replacing the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. This change would allow for greater advocacy of issues related to children and young people.
The Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill was introduced in 2022 to address systemic accessibility barriers that prevented persons with disabilities from living independently and participating in all areas of life. The health system had been reformed in 2022 with the establishment of a nationwide health service and Te Aka Whai Ora, a dedicated Māori Health Authority. The reformed health system had a clear mandate to protect, promote and improve the health of New Zealanders and achieve equity in health outcomes. The 2022 wellbeing budget allocated one billion New Zealand dollars to better support Māori health, education, economic outcomes and cultural wellbeing; one billion to the cost of living package targeted to assist low- and middle-income households; and 89.34 million for Mana Ake, a holistic mental health programme for children that was estimated to reach 195,000 kids. Whaikaha, the Ministry of Disabled People, was established in mid-2022. Whaikaha had a mandate to lead and coordinate disability policy across Government.
New Zealand recognised that it had three reservations to the Convention, which related to age-mixing in custody; legislating for a minimum age of employment; and children unlawfully residing in New Zealand. The delegation would discuss these reservations with the Committee.
New Zealand was undertaking initiatives to improve Māori tribal and family contexts; reduce overrepresentations of Māori, Pacific peoples and other demographics in poverty and youth crime statistics; address challenges in providing safe and affordable housing; improve attendance in education settings; and
improve mental health and wellbeing among young people. The Government had also implemented measures to safeguard the health and wellbeing of children in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 had exacerbated some existing inequities, particularly for Māori and Pacific Island people in education, work and health.
New Zealand was committed to ensuring that all children and young people had the opportunity and ability to reach their full potential.
Questions by Committee Experts
JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for New Zealand, said that the Committee had repeatedly asked the State party to withdraw its reservations to the Convention. What progress had been made in this regard? Did the strategy for children and youth continue to be implemented? The Committee welcomed the Government’s inclusion of children in policy deliberations. Were children involved in developing the strategy? Did the strategy consider the needs of disadvantaged children?
What was the mandate of the Executive Chiefs of the Child and Young People’s Commission? Their decisions reportedly did not have a binding nature. Who oversaw the Commission?
What progress had been made in addressing child poverty? Were children involved in drafting the budgets of measures to tackle child poverty? How was New Zealand strengthening its data collection system? Was data collected on children in vulnerable situations?
What measures were in place to ensure that businesses did not violate the rights of children, including their right to a healthy environment? Had the State party considered eradicating legislative exceptions that allowed for the marriage of children under 18?
What measures were in place to reduce the excessive proportion of Māori children under State custody? Were there channels for such children to report abuse? Were inspections of residential centres carried out by an independent body? How did the State ensure that the opinions of children deprived of a family environment were listened to? Children with behavioural problems were reportedly held in inappropriate facilities. Could more information about this be provided? Were there plans in place to prevent the excessive institutionalisation of children?
RINCHEN CHOPHEL, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, said that New Zealand’s child policies were commendable. However, many reports referenced discrimination of children in institutional settings. Mr. Chophel expressed concern about the high rates of suicide and discrimination of children from disadvantaged groups. Was the Government considering the best interests of the child when developing child policies and strategies? Male children were disproportionately affected by suicide. What legal and other measures were in place to address the situation? Did the Government intend to establish a suicide prevention office? It was commendable that New Zealand had the necessary measures in place to ensure that children were consulted regarding public policies and judicial procedures.
The Committee welcomed the Commission of Inquiry into Sexual and Domestic Violence and other measures to protect children against domestic violence. However, the rate of children who experienced domestic violence remained high. What had been the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry? Child victims reportedly faced some barriers to accessing mental health treatment. What progress had been made in establishing a complaints mechanism for children regarding violence? What services were tackling violence against children?
Mr. Chophel welcomed legislative efforts to prevent child and forced marriage. Were there any policy plans to reinforce this legislation? Had progress been made in establishing a transgender and intersex working group, and in introducing measures to stop surgery from being carried out on intersex children against their wishes?
SUZANNE AHO, Committee Expert and Member of the Country Taskforce for New Zealand, asked about the national rate of birth registration. What measures were in place to give birth certificates to children who were not declared? Did children born through in vitro fertilisation treatments have access to information about their biological origins? Did the children of New Zealander parents born overseas have access to nationality?
Training sessions on the rights of the child were provided for public authorities. Did these sessions cover children’s right to privacy? How did the State protect the data on children that it collected, and what purposes did that data serve? How did the Ministry for Children support children’s participation in decision-making processes?
Did New Zealand have a mechanism to follow-up on its “Keep It Real Online” campaign? Had the Government developed sufficient Internet technology infrastructure in rural areas? What measures were in place to protect the safety of children online?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the rights of children were appropriately protected, and so the Government was not considering introducing additional measures given in article 32 of the Convention. The Young Persons at Work Act placed restrictions on hiring children under the age of 15. Work was underway to develop legislation regarding children’s participation in hazardous work that would potentially allow for the withdrawal of New Zealand’s reservation to article 32. The Government was working to inform school students of their employment rights; it was also conducting studies to determine how to better reach youth from vulnerable groups through awareness campaigns.
New Zealand accepted that age segregation was best for children in detention centres. It maintained its reservation to article 37 of the Convention because of a lack of suitable facilities to ensure separation. Efforts were made to achieve separation wherever possible. Age mixing occurred in limited circumstances. Youth units had been established in adult detention facilities to house youths under 20. In some situations, it was in the best interests of young people to be mixed with adults, for example when their separation would lead to isolation. Mixing young people with adults allowed them to participate in educational programmes. A youth court could only place a young person in custody as a last resort. Guidelines on age mixing had been developed that considered the best interests of the child.
The Government was legally required to develop a child, youth and wellbeing strategy. A review of the strategy was currently underway. A ministerial working group was overseeing the implementation of the strategy. The Government aimed to improve the strategy based on review results. Under the strategy, income support for low-income families had been increased, school lunches had been subsided, and health services were made free for children under 14. The strategy’s goals were to ensure that children were happy and healthy, appropriately educated, respected, involved and empowered. Review indicators showed that progress had been made in the implementation of the strategy.
New Zealand had enacted a programme to strengthen the Ministry for Children. Legislation to establish an independent monitor to oversee the activities of the Ministry had been developed and would come into force in May 2023. The monitor would produce reports on compliance with care standard regulations, outcomes for Māori children, and on outcomes in the areas of health, education and social development. The independent Ombudsman received and investigated complaints against the Ministry for Children. The Ombudsman was empowered to provide independent, culturally sensitive complaints mechanisms, and to pursue and resolve those complaints.
A new Children and Young People’s Commission would replace the Children’s Commissioner. The new Commission would be independent and would be managed by a culturally diverse board. The Commission’s mandate had been expanded to act on behalf of young people in custody of the State up to the age of 25.
The Ombudsman had staff dedicated to receiving complaints from children. It was focused on developing relationships with residential care facilities and tribal groups. The Ombudsman would conduct awareness campaigns to ensure that children and youth were aware of the services it provided. A child-friendly website would be set up for receiving complaints.
The Children and Young People’s Commission conducted visits to residential care facilities for children and made recommendations regarding areas such as hygiene. The Ministry of Children had focused on preventing the use of force in institutions and increasing knowledge of cultural sensitivities though increased training of institution staff.
Motels were used as a last resort for caring for children when other residential options were not available. Care was provided for youths in motels by social workers. The number of children staying in motels had been reduced to nine, and the Government was continuing to work to reduce the number of children staying in motels.
The Government was revising adoption laws to protect children’s rights, including their rights to identity and to access information. The new legislation would encourage child participation and the involvement of the family.
Reports on the youth justice system had identified the need to move away from large youth detention facilities and to establish community-based youth justice homes with one to five inhabitants. These homes encouraged connections between youths, their family and the community. The Ministry of Children was working to expand the number of community-based youth homes. A new home for Māori youths with complex needs had been established in December 2022.
New Zealand had created guidelines for the care of intersex children, established a peer-support service for intersex people and their families, and developed resources to support intersex people in their interactions with the health system.
Suicide was a major public health issue that disproportionately affected Māori men. A suicide prevention office had been established. The office worked with Māori communities, and had developed a suicide prevention strategy that promoted the development of the suicide prevention workforce and monitoring of measures to prevent suicide.
Questions by Committee Experts
RINCHEN CHOPHEL, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, asked how the independent monitor for the child and youth strategy could be independent when it was placed under a Government agency. Were there plans to delink it from the Government?
A Committee Expert asked if there were examples of cases of age-based discrimination in New Zealand. What was the Government’s position on lowering the voting age?
Another Committee Expert said that New Zealand did not rank highly internationally in terms of preventing discrimination of children. One in eight homicide victims in New Zealand were children. What measures were in place to prevent children becoming victims of homicide?
JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for New Zealand, welcomed that New Zealand had a Disability Ministry. What was the Ministry’s mandate? What efforts had been made to reduce discrimination of children with disabilities? Were there channels for children with disabilities to report discrimination? Were there opportunities for children with disabilities to complete their studies and enter the workforce? Was forced surgery of children with disabilities prohibited? Did the Government plan to include the participation of children with disabilities in discussions of policies affecting them?
Mr. Rodríguez Reyes asked for additional information on changes being undertaken to the Child Commissioner’s Office. Would these changes lead to an increase in the budget and a staff increase? What was the logic behind housing vulnerable families in motels? Were there unaccompanied children housed in these motels?
SUZANNE AHO, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, asked why children above 14 did not have access to primary health care. Why did disparities exist in access to health care for Māori children, and what measures were in place to address this? What measures were in place to address obesity and acute rheumatism among children? The rate of infanticide was four to six times higher than in Norway, and there did not appear to be a plan to address the issue. Would policies be developed? What was the vaccination rate for Māori and Pacific Islanders? What was the rate of breastfeeding in New Zealand? Did the State combat marketing of baby formula and promote breastfeeding?
New Zealand had the highest rate of suicide among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What were the root causes of these suicides? Was the Government working to ensure that infirmaries were available in all schools and that their services were effective? New Zealand had a high early pregnancy rate, as well as a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases. What measures were in place to tackle these issues? How was New Zealand working to prevent the sale of tobacco to children and reduce the rate of smoking, including in Māori and Pacific Island communities? What were the State’s policies on mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS? What services were women and girls provided with related to HIV/AIDS? Ms. Aho asked if the Mental Health Commission’s studies covered children’s mental health. Was the Mental Health Commission effective?
What was the Government doing to help the victims of natural disasters, and to tackle air and water pollution? Were these subjects addressed in schools? Twenty per cent of children lived in low-income households. What was being done to support poor households and homeless persons?
ANN SKELTON, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, said that the Committee welcomed the Education and Training Act of 2020. Would a child-rights approach to curriculum reform be taken? It was commendable that the Government subsidised children who attended early childhood education. However, some Māori and Pacific Islander children were still missing out. What was being done to strengthen the early education workforce?
New Zealand had been an early leader in inclusive education. Over 99 per cent of children with disabilities were educated in local schools, but there had recently been an increase in the number of children with disabilities in special schools. What was being done to address this trend? What was the Government’s response to the use of restraints in care institutions for children with disabilities? Racism was still experienced by Māori children in schools. What was being done to address this? What results had measures to prevent bullying in schools had? There had reportedly been an increase in the level of military involvement in schools. Were schools being used as forums for recruitment exercises?
There appeared to be a lack of specialised migration processes for children. Were there plans to address this? What were the grounds for the State party’s general reservation to the Convention regarding migration? What was the core of the Government’s strategy to combat violence against children? Where could children file complaints regarding discrimination by a private employer?
New Zealand’s youth justice model was admired around the world. It was positive that 17-year-olds were now part of the youth justice system. However, the Committee frowned upon the State’s offence-centred approach. There was recently a trend of youths committing ram-raiding offenses. What was being done to address this?
Had data related to trafficking and sale of children and child pornography been collected, and had policies addressing these issues been developed? Was New Zealand considering applying extraterritorial jurisdiction over such crimes? Ms. Skelton congratulated New Zealand on being the fiftieth State to ratify the third Optional Protocol. What measures were in place to inform children about the complaints’ procedure?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the family violence strategy of 2020 was a multidisciplinary strategy aimed at addressing family violence. The strategy included a comprehensive data collection system that would support analysis of the experiences of children who experienced violence. Research into responses to family violence was planned.
New Zealand was aware of the long-standing issue of housing supply. There had been more public housing made available since September 2022, and the number of emergency housing providers had been reduced. Motels were not ideal, but preferable to people sleeping on the streets. No children stayed in motels unattended. The Government provided housing assistance to disadvantaged groups, and was developing standards for motels and emergency housing. To strengthen public housing, the Government would increase investment in the system, develop emergency housing standards, and implement “for Māori, by Māori” initiatives. The Government was also working to provide education to landlords on tenancy laws. Around 1.4 million New Zealand dollars had been invested in education and awareness campaigns on tenancy laws. Tenants experiencing family violence were able to end tenancies with two days’ notice. Māori and Pacific Islander persons were prioritised in the provision of public housing.
A ministerial group on disability had been established that was currently responding to the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Children with disabilities were more likely to experience material hardship than other children. Around 1.7 billion New Zealand dollars was invested in the “Enabling Good Lives” disability support system each year. The New Zealand disability strategy and action plan to 2024 was also being implemented. Work was underway to develop the next action plan.
A Māori Health Authority had been established to develop strategy and policy for Māori health and to monitor Māori health outcomes. Local health boards had been established, and rural and women and girls’ health strategies had also been developed. The Māori health action plan aimed to improve the health system for Māori, address racism within the system, and promote traditional Māori health practices.
The Government was working to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people’s mental health. An independent inquiry into the mental health system had been conducted. A strategy for reforming the mental health system had been drafted based on this inquiry. Youth-specific mental health services had been funded in recent budgets, including funding for mental health services within schools and for adolescent mental health and addiction services. Legislation on institutional mental health care was being revised to reduce the use of restraints and seclusion. The mandate of the mental health commission extended to the mental health of children and youth.
New Zealand had a high rate of obesity, and the rate had increased in 2021. The Government was promoting a healthy diet and physical activity through various awareness campaigns aimed at children. Fruit and vegetables were provided to children in schools. All vaccinations were free for children, including migrant children. The Government was working to increase the vaccination rate, which had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand had developed a code on breastfeeding in birthing hospitals. Young people born on or after 2009 were prohibited from taking up smoking. Abortion services were provided for free. An action plan to combat HIV/AIDS had been developed. Family planning services were available to all young people. The “healthy homes” initiative was working to combat the high rate of rhematic fever by improving heating in housing.
The New Zealand curriculum was being reformed to promote a safe and inclusive education system. Resources had been invested in educating young people on the history of Māori and the diverse cultures of the State. A programme aiming to strengthen education and training support for Māori students had been initiated. Education programmes for children on human rights and the environment had also been developed.
The Ministry of Education subsidised early childhood education. Targeted funding was also provided to low-income households, and subsidies would be increased this year. Funding was also provided to strengthen the early education workforce. A regulatory framework for education providers had been established.
In 2022, 100 million dollars had been invested in learning hubs for children with disabilities within schools. There were 36 specialist schools for children with learning needs in New Zealand, including three residential schools. There had been a small increase in the number of students enrolled in specialist schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government was developing satellite school networks to allow children with disabilities to receive specialised education in local schools.
The Government was putting in place guidelines to reduce the use of restraints in residential schools, developing training on alternatives, and establishing a monitoring system on the use of restraints. Restraints were only used in one residential school, and the Government was working with that school to reform the practice.
The Government was working with Māori and Pacific Islanders and the Human Rights Commission to develop an action plan to prevent racial discrimination in schools. A strategy to improve the education of Māori children had also been developed. The strategy aimed to increase their participation in education, increase education in Māori language and culture, and improve education outcomes for Māori students.
Bullying rates in New Zealand remained high. Schools were legally required to take all reasonable steps to eliminate bullying. Information on best practices for addressing bullying was distributed to schools. A bully prevention advisory group had been established.
New Zealand was considering whether to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility in line with international best practice, and would present its conclusions to the Universal Periodic Review. Officials were considering whether to revise legislation allowing 17-year-olds to be tried as adults for certain offences. Support for children involved in vehicle-assisted burglaries was being provided.
The New Zealand Government assessed the situation of persons with New Zealand citizenship in Syrian camps on a case-by-case basis, with their wellbeing being the Government’s primary consideration.
Questions by Committee Experts
SUZANNE AHO, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, said that the implementation of health programmes and strategies had been sluggish. What had been the results of programmes tackling obesity? Why had the Government not managed to achieve its goal of 100 per cent vaccination of children, and what was it doing to improve the vaccination rate? Was there a shortfall in the number of mental health sector staff? What measures were in place to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS? What had the outcome of the survey of children with disabilities been? Which programmes were dedicated to preventing early pregnancy? Did everyone have equal access to abortion services, including the Māori?
JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for New Zealand, wished New Zealand success in establishing the Disability Ministry. Would the Ministry have a dedicated unit for children, and what would the mandate be for such a unit? It was concerning that the sterilisation of children with disabilities seemingly continued to be carried out. This practice needed to be stopped. What specifically was being done to address youth suicide and their use of alcohol and tobacco?
ANN SKELTON, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, asked about the racism action plan. When would it be published, and did it have a specific focus on children?
Another Committee Expert asked about the proportion of Māori children accessing higher education. Was there an accessible complaints mechanism for reporting bullying within schools, and were there mechanisms for combatting racism directly in schools?
One Committee Expert said that the State’s approach to lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility seemed to be weak. How did the justice system treat children in the lowest age bracket? How many New Zealand children were being held in camps in Syria?
MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chair, said that in New Zealand, the Constitution guaranteed freedom from discrimination. Age was included as grounds for discrimination within the Human Rights Act of 1993, but only for persons aged 16 or older. Could the delegation explain why this did not apply to younger children?
RINCHEN CHOPHEL, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for New Zealand, said that New Zealand had an inconsistent approach to addressing children’s complaints. The ability of the Children’s Commissioner to receive complaints needed to be strengthened.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that New Zealand had ratified the third Optional Protocol, which came into effect in 2022. There was more work to be done to inform young people about their right to access this complaint mechanism.
New Zealand had extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes involving the use of children in armed conflict. Members of the New Zealand Defence Force could be charged for recruiting children in armed groups.
All United States-based social media platforms were required to report to the Government on potential cases of child abuse. New Zealand police and customs agencies met daily to assess reports of abuse and coordinated response actions. Customs services identified child sexual exploitation victims and provided appropriate support. An online hub had been developed to provide information to children and parents on online sexual exploitation.
Legal representation was provided to unaccompanied minors in asylum claim cases. The views of children were considered in immigration interviews. Asylum seekers who were minors could access health care and education. Unaccompanied minors were very rare in New Zealand. No unaccompanied minors had lodged asylum claims in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
Sixteen was chosen as the floor for age-based discrimination as this was the age from which New Zealanders could enter the workforce. Children under 16 were able to consent to medical treatment. The Supreme Court had found that the legal voting age of 18 was inconsistent with the Human Rights Act and its floor for age-based discrimination. The voting age was currently being considered by an independent review panel. The panel would issue its final report in November 2023.
The independent oversight act established enhanced powers for the independent children’s monitor. The new commission for children would not have functions to receive complaints from children. The Ombudsman’s Office would instead receive and respond to complaints from children. The new commission would also not monitor the child justice system; this was monitored by the Child Justice Commission. The independent children’s monitor was independent from the ministries that it was charged to monitor. The components of the oversight system worked collaboratively, sharing information as appropriate.
HIV prevalence was very low in New Zealand, and there were no mother to child transmissions. There were 112 people known to have HIV. The Government collected data on access to abortion services once every five years. There were parts of New Zealand with limited access to abortion. Smoking rates had been declining in New Zealand for young adults. Rates were higher for Māori women and men. Legislation required smoke-free indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. New Zealand was committed to being completely smoke-free by 2025. Vaccine hesitancy was a major reason for the drop in the vaccination rate. The Māori health authority was working to ensure that Māori health services directly contacted the Māori community to encourage vaccinations. Children at risk of rhematic fever were prioritised in the provision of public housing. All alcoholic drinks were required to carry a pregnancy warning label.
Initiatives were underway to strengthen the mental health workforce, including initiatives to increase the representation of Māori and Pacific Islanders. More data needed to be collected on non-therapeutic sterilisation. The Government was working to raise awareness about bodily integrity and provide training to prevent such sterilisation. Non-consensual sterilisation was permitted only when it was necessary to protect the health of the person involved. Health practitioners were legally required to assess children’s capacity to consent.
A family sexual violence strategy was in place. The strategy encouraged communities to design and run their own interventions. Child protection protocols were also in place. There were no plans to develop a dedicated strategy targeting children, but children were a focus of the current family strategy.
The Royal Commission into Historic Abuse in Care was still underway; 13 public hearings had been held by the Commission. A response unit and working groups had been established. A report on redress had been released by the Commission in 2021, and further reports would be released this year. The report outlined the harm caused to persons in State-based and faith-based care. The Government was facilitating access to support services and care for victims. There was a need to shift from a settlement-based redress system to a provision-based system that considered the needs of victims. A body for designing the redress system was being assembled. Improvements would be made to allow survivors to access their personal information, and a public apology would be made by the Prime Minister in 2023 after the Commission’s work had concluded.
New Zealand was working to increase young people’s participation in the political process. Various Government programmes and initiatives were being codesigned with young people. The Ministry of Youth Development had developed “The Hive”, a forum for young people to contribute to Government policy. A Youth Parliament was held every three years. Members of the Youth Parliament debated public policy and asked questions of members of Parliament. A child impact assessment tool had been developed; a child rights and wellbeing hub, an interactive training hub for education on the Convention, was also being developed.
JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for New Zealand, thanked the delegation for its efforts in providing answers to the Committee’s questions, which aimed to support the youth of New Zealand. New problems had been identified during the dialogue, and these needed to be addressed. The Committee’s concluding observations would aim to address these problems and help to improve the situation for all children in New Zealand.
CHAPPIE TE KANI, Chief Executive, Ministry for Children of New Zealand and head of the delegation , welcomed the Committee’s support for the New Zealand Government in achieving its aspirations for children. The Committee’s insights would inform future initiatives for children. Work to support children implemented since the last periodic review had helped to advance children’s rights and make New Zealand a better place to be a child and raise a family. The Government had a clear roadmap for addressing future challenges and for ensuring that future generations had their rights upheld and had the opportunity to thrive and prosper. Achieving this vision required bold changes to how the Government and communities worked together. Key public services needed to be strengthened. Children, young people, communities and tribes needed to not only have a voice but also have the tools and support to thrive. The delegation looked forward to receiving the Committee’s feedback and concluding observations.
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