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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
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New Zealand 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses New Zealand at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Wellington does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services (ACS) unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

Review OSAC’s New Zealand page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is minimal risk from crime in Wellington and Auckland. In general, crime is less prevalent in New Zealand than in major U.S. cities. According to the Global Peace Index 2018, New Zealand was ranked the second-safest country in the world.

A majority of the country’s population lives in the larger urban areas of Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington, all of which lead the country in criminal activity and associated arrests. In major urban areas, street crimes, such as thefts from vehicles, are routine occurrences, and foreign tourists are frequently victims. Year-end statistics for 2018, however, show a 3.5% decrease in violent and petty crimes throughout New Zealand compared to 2017.

The use of weapons in crimes remains an infrequent occurrence throughout New Zealand; arrests for weapons-related offenses continue to decline. The number of homicides, however, rose from 48 in 2017 to approximately 60 in 2018 (final figures are still pending).

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

New Zealand has over 60,000 kilometers of paved roads, including motorways that connect the major metropolitan areas of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown. These roads have widths comparable to Western highway standards; however, roads in rural areas are slightly narrower than most of those found in the U.S. Due to New Zealand’s unique topography, and the fact that most of the major roadways linking cities and towns consist of just two lanes, passing vehicles can be dangerous.

Most traffic laws are comparable with Western standards. Traffic flows on the left side of the road. There are numerous roundabouts (traffic circles) that can be confusing and dangerous for those who are unfamiliar with yielding to traffic coming from the right. These conditions, combined with the possibility of extreme weather, make it essential for newcomers to familiarize themselves with local laws and procedures before driving a motor vehicle. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Wellington and Auckland. According to New Zealand counter-terrorism authorities, the country’s current national terrorism threat level is LOW, indicating that a terrorist attack is possible but not expected. Police have identified a small number of ISIS supporters, but do judge these individuals to constitute active threats. 

New Zealand has not been the specific target of an international or transnational terrorist attack, but as a partner nation of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism, terrorists could view it as a potential target.

In 2014, New Zealand began deploying members of the New Zealand Defense Forces (NZDF) to Iraq on a training mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. In 2017, New Zealand made a small increase in its commitment to a non-combatant role in Afghanistan by extending its mandated contributions through June 2018 and with larger NZDF deployments in a non-combat role to Iraq through November 2018. As part of a September 2018 decision to extend the NZDF deployment to Iraq and the region through June 30, 2019, mandated personnel numbers were reduced. The Government is studying possible options for further contributions to Iraq and the region going forward.

An appointed Assistant Commissioner within the New Zealand Police oversees national efforts to pre-empt and respond to terrorist attacks; these include a full-time Special Tactics Group for operational response, a full-time Specialist Search Group and National Bomb Data Center Manager, a Strategic Intelligence Unit, and liaison positions at New Zealand’s diplomatic missions abroad.

In line with its commitments under international law, New Zealand has adopted procedures to implement UN resolutions against terrorism, including taking steps to prevent terrorist financing, recruiting, or other forms of support. New Zealand applies these measures against specific entities listed by the UN Security Council.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

There is minimal risk from political violence in Wellington and Auckland. Protests occur occasionally at the U.S. Embassy in Wellington and the U.S. Consulate in Auckland. Common themes include anti-globalization, opposition to the war in Afghanistan, domestic political issues, immigration issues and indigenous (Maori) rights. Most protests are generally peaceful.

  • On June 22, 2018, about 200 protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Wellington and another 150 protesters gathered outside the U.S. Consulate in Auckland to condemn immigration detention camps in the U.S. These protests were peaceful in nature.
  • In October 2018, approximately 200 protesters gathered at the New Zealand Defence Industry Association annual conference in Palmerston North. New Zealand Police arrested 12 protesters.
  • In January 2018, approximately 50 protesters gathered at the annual Waihopai spy base protest.


Religious/Ethnic Violence

There is an indigenous Maori separatist group, but this group is typically not seen as a threat.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The possibility of natural disasters – including earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions – is one of the greatest security threats faced by those living and working in New Zealand.

In November 2016, New Zealand experienced a 7.8 earthquake near Kaikoura (South Island) that resulted in two deaths and significant damage to infrastructure. Wellington was heavily impacted, with widespread power outages and property damage. Several buildings in the Central Business District (CBD) have been or are in the process of being demolished due to safety concerns.

In 2011 a 6.3 earthquake struck Christchurch, causing major damage to buildings and infrastructure, and resulting in 181 deaths and at least 164 serious injuries. In 2010, a 7.1 earthquake in the Canterbury region of the South Island, centered in Christchurch, caused substantial structural damage but no deaths.  As a result of these earthquakes, accommodations within Christchurch remain somewhat limited, and safety cordons restrict access to significant portions of Christchurch’s CBD.

New Zealand’s port cities are susceptible to tsunamis. Although no recent tsunamis have caused significant damage, New Zealand experiences occasional tsunami watches and warnings related to seismic activity in the Pacific region. The Ministry of Civil Defence publicizes the issuance of tsunami watches or warnings through local and national media.

New Zealand contains a number of active volcanoes. Although the probability of an eruption affecting a large area is very low, New Zealand’s 12 active volcanic areas are important considerations when developing emergency preparedness plans.

The New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence promotes emergency preparedness, urging responsibility for personal safety and security in the event of a natural disaster. Civil Defence centers throughout the country serve as command posts and assistance centers during a natural disaster. It is critical for private-sector organizations to have a plan for emergencies that includes personnel accountability, personnel sustainability, communication, and continuity of operations.

Economic Concerns

The New Zealand government identifies intellectual property theft as a serious crime, and is an active participant in international efforts to strengthen enforcement globally. This includes being a party to the multilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, observing nine World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties, and actively participating in the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council. New Zealand has allocated significant resources to legal reform of existing intellectual property laws and their enforcement, leading to convictions of copyright violators.

The principal legislation governing copyright protection is The Copyright Act of 1994 and its amendments, including the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act passed in 2011, which put in place a three-notice regime to deter illegal file sharing. The first conviction under this amendment was in January 2013, when RIANZ (the Recording Industry Association of NZ) took action on behalf of two of its members.

The Copyright Act contains a range of civil remedies to compensate copyright owners, and criminal offenses for the infringement of copyright works for commercial gain. The New Zealand Police are able to investigate and prosecute copyright pirates; a convicted person may be imprisoned for up to five years or fined up to NZD$150,000.

Trademarks are protected under the Trade Marks Act, which entered into force in 2003. The Patents Act 2013 brings New Zealand patent law into substantial conformity with Australian patent law. However, the 2013 Act stops short of precluding all computer software, and has a provision for patenting “embedded software.”

NZ Customs administers border protection measures regarding intellectual property. Its role is to intercept any suspected counterfeit goods and to report the incident to the rights holder for action. Between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, NZ Customs seized 15,650 counterfeit items at the border, a precipitous drop from the year before. Rights holders can lodge a border protection notice under the Trade Marks and/or Copyright Acts. It is an offense under the Trade Marks Act to counterfeit a registered trademark or import or to sell goods with a falsely applied registered trademark. Maximum penalties are five years imprisonment or a NZD$150,000 fine. In 2018, NZ acceded to another four WIPO treaties so as to be in compliance with the free trade agreement CPTPP. 

Privacy Concerns

Some organizations have expressed concern about the Government of New Zealand’s abilities to collect information as covered in the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act controls how "agencies" collect, use, disclose, store, and give access to "personal information." The privacy Codes of Practice does the same, but they apply to specific areas – particularly those of health, telecommunications, and credit reporting. The Privacy Act covers government departments, companies of all sizes, religious groups, schools, and clubs. At the heart of the Privacy Act are 12 privacy principles:

  • collection of personal information (principles 1-4);
  • storage and security of personal information (principle 5);
  • requests for access to and correction of personal information (principles 6 and 7, and parts 4 and 5 of the Act);
  • accuracy of personal information (principle 8);
  • retention of personal information (principle 9);
  • use and disclosure of personal information (principles 10 and 11), and;
  • use of unique identifiers (principle 12).


There are also four principles covering public registers, which reflect internationally accepted standards for the safe handling of personal information.

Drug-related Crimes

The New Zealand Police reports that organized crime groups continue to control the illegal drug trade. Methamphetamine continues to be the most prevalent street drug, followed closely by marijuana. A 2004 change in legislation restricted access to pseudoephedrine, the most common chemical ingredient for the manufacture of methamphetamine. As a result, illegal importation of pseudoephedrine has steadily increased. Overall arrests for drug-related crimes remain consistent, and efforts to eliminate cannabis crops and the manufacturing/supply of methamphetamine have proven somewhat successful.  

In recent years, New Zealand has passed several legislative initiatives, with the most recent being an effort in 2017 to target organized crime, money laundering, bribery, and drug-related crime. These initiatives have provided law agencies with greater authority.

Police Response

In comparison to the U.S., the New Zealand Police has limited resources and personnel. This constrains their response time to calls and the type of response that is dispatched. Nevertheless, police typically respond to major incidents with the appropriate personnel. The New Zealand Police, with government support, is on track to employ between 1,000-1,800 new recruits over the next three years.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police harassment, misconduct, and corruption are not significant issues. Detained individuals have rights enshrined under the New Zealand Bill of Rights, including the right to legal representation (which includes an initial free consultation).

Crime Victim Assistance

In an emergency, report crimes to the New Zealand Police by dialing 111. Contact the nearest New Zealand Police station for non-emergencies. Report non-emergency crimes online or at the nearest New Zealand Police station.  

Police/Security Agencies

The New Zealand Police is the lead agency responsible for reducing crime and enhancing community safety. It operates from more than 370 community-based police stations, with a staff of 12,000 personnel who respond to more than 850,000 emergency calls each year. The police operate by land, sea, and air. The New Zealand Police are trained to a Western standard and are actively involved in crime prevention and response. The force has specialized units to deal with armed offenders and hostage situations.  

The Police Commissioner is accountable for the operational response to threats to national security, including terrorism, and has a key role through the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC). ODESC is composed of government and non-government agencies that work together to manage counter-terrorism efforts.

Medical Emergencies

In the event of an emergency, dialing 111 will connect callers to a dispatch center for police, fire, and ambulance services.

Unlike in the U.S., consultations with medical specialists are only by referral from a General Practitioner. Late doctors and medical centers/clinics via the New Zealand Yellow Pages under “Medical Practitioners.” Every New Zealand telephone book has a section at the beginning devoted to “Medical Practitioners and Medical Centres(the green pages), which contains a comprehensive list of practitioners. In addition, the contact information for hospitals in the main cities is available online.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For a list of available medical facilities, refer to the U.S. Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

The air ambulance service Life Flight and can be contacted at +64-4-387-9591


Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for New Zealand.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Regional Security Office (RSO) is actively seeking to re-launch the OSAC Country Council in New Zealand and to establish a regular meeting schedule. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Wellington, 29 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon 6011, Wellington

Hours: Monday-Friday, 0800-1700 (except U.S. and local holidays)

Embassy Contact Numbers

Post 1: +64-4-462-6035

Embassy Operator: +64-4-462-6000

Duty Officer: +64-9-303-2724 Ext 2900

Website: https://nz.usembassy.gov/

Consular coverage for multi-post countries

The U.S. Consulate in Auckland, which provides consular services for all of New Zealand, also provides consular services to Samoa, Niue, the Cook Islands, the Pitcairn Islands, and Antarctica.

Nearby Posts

Consulate Auckland: https://nz.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/auckland/

Additional Resources

New Zealand Country Information Sheet



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