New Zealand
Trafficking in Human Beings (THB)


Human trafficking is a crime in New Zealand under Section 98D of the Crimes Act 1961.

US Department of State

Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report)
New Zealand: Tier 1

The Government of New Zealand fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore New Zealand remained on Tier 1. These efforts included obtaining eight convictions for trafficking-related crimes, initiating the fourth prosecution under the trafficking statute, cooperating with foreign law enforcement to prosecute trafficking crimes, and providing services to victims identified in previous years. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it initiated only two trafficking investigations and did not identify or assist any sex trafficking victims. The government reported identifying few victims and prosecuting a low number of suspected traffickers.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in New Zealand. New Zealand girls and boys (often from minority communities) are exploited in sex trafficking. Young children and teenagers are recruited into prostitution by gang members, boyfriends, family members, or others. Some victims are coerced into prostitution through drug dependencies or threats by family members. Foreign men and women from Fiji, Samoa, China, India, the Philippines, and countries in Latin America are vulnerable to forced labor in New Zealand’s agricultural, dairy, construction, viticulture, food service, technology, and hospitality sectors, and as domestic workers. Unregulated and unlicensed immigration brokers operating in New Zealand and source countries, particularly in India and the Philippines, assist victims of labor exploitation in New Zealand obtain visas. Some foreign workers are charged excessive recruitment fees and experience unjustified salary deductions, non- or under-payment of wages, excessively long working hours, restrictions on their movement, passport retention, and contract alteration. Some traffickers force migrant workers to work in job conditions different from those promised during recruitment, and victims often do not file complaints due to fear of losing their temporary visas. Foreign workers aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters are vulnerable to forced labor. Foreign women from Asia and South America are at risk of sex trafficking. Some international students and temporary visa holders are vulnerable to forced labor or prostitution.

New Zealand gangs
Black Power members gather to protest against a new bylaw passed to ban gang patches.

Why New Zealand Has So Many Gang Members

“For a quiet country, New Zealand has a peculiar problem with gangs. It is reckoned to have one of the highest membership rates in the world. In a population of 4.7m, police count over 5300 mobsters or ‘prospects’ who are angling to join. Cumulatively, that makes the groups larger than the army,” E.A.D.W explains in an Economist piece.

Ecpat New Zealand

Kiwis in denial about human trafficking and exploitation

Training programmes are being launched in direct response to human trafficking and exploitation concerns in New Zealand. But Kiwi anti-child sex trafficking group Ecpat Child Alert NZ says many here are “in denial” that trafficking exists. The group is hitting a brick wall with its plans to introduce The Code, an initiative to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

PhD Natalie Thorburn

You can’t see it if you’re not looking: Sex trafficking in Aotearoa New Zealand

2018 – Domestic sex trafficking in Aotearoa has received little contemporary focus due to widespread ambiguity about its nature and prevalence, and discussion on the topic is made difficult by frequent and problematic conflation of ‘sex work’ with ‘trafficking’. This thesis aimed to explore the experiences of Aotearoa victims of sex trafficking, using a narrative approach underpinned by a feminist and social constructionist epistemology in order to ethically navigate methodological issues presented by the likelihood of participants’ past experiences of trauma and gender-based violence.

PhD Natalie Thorburn

Practitioner knowledge and responsiveness to victims of sex traffficking in Aotearoa/New Zealand

2017 – Victims of sex trafficking are known to be at risk for a wide range of adverse outcomes globally, but sex trafficking is commonly believed not to happen in Aotearoa/New Zealand. New Zealand has a robust legislative frameworkto safeguard people doing sex work; the work itself is decriminalised, and trafficking legislation disallows exploitative behaviour. However, this trafficking legislation is under-utilised, and domestic sex trafficking has attracted no prevention efforts from the government. While initiatives to assist identification and interventionare common practice internationally, they do not exist in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Using online qualitative surveys, I sought to examine frontline medical and social service practitioners’ perspectives of and experiences with domestic sex trafficking. The results indicated varied experiences of contact with victims, and numerous problematic interpretations of victims’ presentations and of the concept of trafficking. Specifically, definitions of trafficking appeared ambiguous and outdated, and respondents commonly conflated ‘trafficking’ with other phenomena such as sex work, sexual violence, or family violence. I conclude that trafficking and victimhood discourses arguably texture people’s conceptualisations of what constitutes sex trafficking, illustrating the need for a clear shared definition of sex trafficking as it manifests in a domestic context.

PhD Natalie Thorburn

> Coerced sex work a significant problem in New Zealand
> Exclusive: ‘Adults setting up kids to be repeatedly raped, and making money from it’
> Michelle Duff: It’s 2017, and there’s sex trafficking in New Zealand
> New Zealand’s underbelly of forced sex trade involves Kiwis as young as 12, researcher says
> Young Aucklanders in hidden sex world
> ‘Kids selling themselves for sex from 12’ – NZ’s secret world of child prostitution