New Zealand | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017

New Zealand


Freedom Status: 

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 

New Zealand has a strong record of providing for and protecting fundamental freedoms. Free and fair elections take place regularly, people can exercise their political rights, and free expression and other civil liberties are protected. Among the greatest concerns is de facto discrimination against New Zealand’s Maori people and some immigrant communities, although the government has made significant efforts in recent years to improve representation of their interests.

Key Developments: 
  • The government introduced a bill in August to tighten rules regarding foreign trusts after the Panama Papers scandal highlighted New Zealand as a possible haven for so-called gray money—wealthy individuals using anonymous offshore entities to hide their assets.
  • Also in August, the government introduced an intelligence and security bill that would enhance interagency cooperation while allowing for more interception of private communications and collection of citizens’ personal information.
  • In December, Bill English was sworn in as prime minister following the unexpected resignation, for personal reasons, of long-serving prime minister John Key.
Executive Summary: 

New Zealand has a robust and well-established democracy. Free and fair elections take place regularly and the population is able to organize in a range of political parties and participate in the political process. Although New Zealand is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, the government continues to fight corruption in government and business. For example, in response to the Panama Papers leak in 2016, which referenced New Zealand as a possible haven for offshore investors, the government drafted a bill to tighten registration and transparency regulations for foreign trusts.

In August, the government introduced a sweeping new intelligence and security bill to enable more cooperation among New Zealand’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies. As an example of New Zealand’s open public discourse, the bill faced robust parliamentary debate and public comment. The bill was pending at year’s end.

While individuals enjoy a wide range of civil liberties largely unrestricted, New Zealand continues to struggle to fully uphold the rights of its indigenous and Pacific islander populations, who lag behind the European-descended majority in social and economic status. The Maori population has become more assertive in its claims for land, resources, and compensation from the government in recent years, and the Maori Party is part of the ruling government coalition.

Explanatory Note: 

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in New Zealand, see Freedom in the World 2016.

Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 

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