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New Zealand 2017 Crime & Safety Report

East Asia & Pacific > New Zealand; East Asia & Pacific > New Zealand > Auckland; East Asia & Pacific > New Zealand > Wellington

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Wellington does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.


Please review OSAC’s New Zealand-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

In general, crime is less prevalent in New Zealand than in major cities in the U.S. A majority of the country’s population lives in the larger urban areas of Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch, all of which lead the country in criminal activity and associated arrests. Although complete statistics for 2016 are not available, mid-year indicators show a 5.4% decline in violent and petty crimes throughout New Zealand in comparison to 2015. 

In major urban areas, street crimes (thefts from vehicles) are routine occurrences, and foreign tourists are frequently the victims. Arrests for weapons-related offenses continued to show a slight decline; however, the use of weapons in crimes remains an infrequent occurrence throughout New Zealand. 

Homicides and other violent crimes appear to have declined, though there was an increase in fraud and deception-related offenses compared to 2015. It was unclear whether this increase was due to an actual spike in criminal activity or whether outreach efforts by law enforcement have encouraged more victims to come forward and make reports.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

New Zealand is serviced by over 60,000 kilometers of paved roads, including motorways that connect the major metropolitan areas of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown. Traffic flows on the opposite side of the road from the U.S. These roads are comparable to Western standards for width; however, roads in rural areas are slightly narrower than those found in the U.S. The major roadways linking cities and towns are two-lane roadways; this, coupled with the extreme topography, can make overtaking of vehicles dangerous. 

Most traffic laws are comparable with Western standards. There are numerous roundabouts (traffic circles) that can be confusing and dangerous for those who are unfamiliar with giving-way to the right. These conditions, coupled with routine extreme weather, make it essential for newcomers to familiarize themselves with local laws and procedures before driving a motor vehicle.

Terrorism Threat


Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

New Zealand continues to be a partner of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism. In late 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. New Zealand has not been the specific target of an international or transnational terrorist attack in recent years, but as a partner nation, it could be viewed by terrorists as a potential target. In light of this possibility, the New Zealand government enacted legislation in 2002 that increased New Zealand’s capability to pre-empt and respond to terrorist attacks. This included the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner within the New Zealand Police to focus efforts, a full-time Special Tactics Group for operational response, a full-time Specialist Search Group and National Bomb Data Centre Manager, a Strategic Intelligence Unit, and liaison positions at New Zealand’s diplomatic missions.


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 made up of government and non-government agencies that work together to manage counter-terrorism efforts.

New Zealand, in line with its commitments under international law, adopts 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 UNSC as being associated with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda network. All terrorist entities listed by the UN are automatically listed by New Zealand. These entities remain terrorist entities in New Zealand for as long as they remain listed by the UN.

The Financial Crime Group established in December 2009 undertook significant work to develop and implement the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009. This Act enables the proceeds of crime to be forfeited to the Crown based on the civil standard of proof rather than requiring a criminal conviction. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence


Civil Unrest 

There are occasional protests, including at the U.S. Embassy in Wellington and U.S. Consulate in Auckland. They usually highlight anti-globalization themes, opposition to the war in Afghanistan, domestic political issues, and indigenous (Maori) rights. These protests are generally peaceful. There were several significant protests in Auckland against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in 2015 that drew several thousand protestors for each event. Both events were generally orderly, with few arrests reported.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

There is an indigenous Maori separatist group. This group is not seen as a threat.

Police have identified a small number of supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) but have not judged these individuals to comprise active threats.   

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The possibility of natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions) is one of the greatest threats faced by people living and working in New Zealand. It is critical for businesses to have a plan for emergencies addressing personnel accountability, personnel sustainability, communication, and continuity of operations.     

·         On November 14, 2016, New Zealand experienced a 7.8 earthquake. There were two deaths near the epicenter at the South Island’s Kaikoura and significant damage to infrastructure. Wellington was heavily impacted, with widespread power outages and property damage. Several buildings in the Central Business District (CBD) remain cordoned off due to safety concerns.

·         On Feb 22, 2011 a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, causing major damage to buildings and infrastructure, especially within the CBD and resulting in the deaths of 181 people and serious injury to at least 164 people.

·         A 7.1 earthquake occurred in September 2010 in the Canterbury region of the South Island, centered in Christchurch, causing substantial structural damage but no death.

As a result of the two earlier earthquakes, accommodations within Christchurch remain severely 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 does experience occasional tsunami watches/warnings related to seismic activity in the Pacific region. The Ministry of Civil Defence announces when tsunami watches/warnings have been issued through local and national media. 

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

The New Zealand Government, through its Ministry of Civil Defence, promotes emergency preparedness, urging people to take personal responsibility for their safety and security in the event of a natural disaster. New Zealand has Civil Defence centers throughout the country to serve as command posts and assistance centers during a natural disaster.

Critical Infrastructure

In November 2010, an underground coal mine exploded near Greymouth on the South Island. Some 29 miners were killed. International assistance (equipment, expertise, materials) from the U.S., Australia, and other countries was sought and delivered. The environment in the mine was not stabilized to allow recovery of the bodies. 

Economic Concerns

The New Zealand government has identified intellectual property theft as a serious crime and has proposed allocating resources toward investigating and indicting copyright thieves. Government agencies, acting on information provided by the New Zealand Screen Association (NZSA) and members of the public, continue to identify and raid illegal distributors and manufacturing labs. In 2006, for the first time, a New Zealand movie thief received a jail sentence. NZSA investigators work closely with law enforcement authorities to ensure that copyright is protected in New Zealand. NZSA also works with the Motion Picture Association and other industry anti-piracy associations (music, computer software, and computer games industries) in the effort to stamp out copyright theft.  

Privacy Concerns

There are a few organizations that have expressed concern about the NZ Government’s abilities to collect information as covered in the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act was sworn into law in 1993; there have been several revisions to cover the changing technology fronts. 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 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, plus 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 used, with marijuana a close second. A 2004 change in legislation restricted access to pseudophedrine, the most common chemical needed for the manufacture of methamphetamine. As a result, illegal importation of pseudoephedrine has steadily increased.   

Overall arrests for drug-related crimes have remained consistent, and efforts to eliminate cannabis crops and the manufacturing/supply of methamphetamine have proved somewhat successful. In 2009, New Zealand passed several legislative initiatives to tackle the growing organized crime strongholds of illegal drugs, extortion, and human trafficking. These initiatives have provided law agencies with greater authorities. 

Police Response

In comparison to the U.S., the New Zealand Police have limited resources and personnel. This constrains their response times to calls, as well as the types of response dispatched. That said, the New Zealand Police respond to major incidents with the appropriate personnel necessary to deal with the situation.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police harassment, misconduct, and corruption are not significant issues in New Zealand. People detained by Police 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

To contact the police, dial “111.” 

Police/Security Agencies

The New Zealand Police is the lead agency responsible for reducing crime and enhancing community safety. The Police provide services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They operate from more than 370 community-based police stations, and have a staff of 12,000 personnel who respond to more than 715,000 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. They have specialized units to deal with armed offenders and hostage situations.  

Medical Emergencies

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

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

There are numerous hospitals and clinics throughout New Zealand that offer adequate health care that typically meet Western standards.

Every New Zealand White Pages telephone book has a section at the beginning devoted to “Medical Practitioners and Medical Centres” (the green pages), with a comprehensive list of practitioners. In addition, contact information for each of the hospitals in the main cities is repeated on White Pages online.

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 is actively seeking to re-launch OSAC in New Zealand and establish a regular meeting schedule. Please contact OSAC’s East Asia and the 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

Hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1700 (except U.S. and local holidays)

Embassy Contact Numbers

Post 1: +64-4-462-6035

Embassy Operator: +64-4-462-6000

Regional Security Officer (Wellington):  +64-4-462-6110

Consular Affairs (Auckland): +64-9-303-2724

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


Consular coverage for multi-post countries

U.S. Embassy Wellington is also responsible for Samoa and French Polynesia

Nearby Posts

Consulate Auckland:

Additional Resources

New Zealand Country Information Sheet