This article is focused on New Zealand law and explains issues from a Common law perspective.

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How to complain to the NZ Commissioner for Children


The position of New Zealand Commissioner for Children is set up under the CHILDREN, YOUNG PERSONS, AND THEIR FAMILIES ACT 1989. The position is one with broad-ranging powers and responsibilities with regards to the welfare and interests of children and young people, including investigating matters referred to the Commissioner by members of the public.

The Commissioner's power to investigate complaints and other matters

Generally the Commissioner's office has the power to investigate and report on any matter affecting the welfare of children. Accordingly the Commissioner may become involved when you have a complaint about an agency exercising powers under the Act and you have not had a satisfactory response from the agency.

This may involve actions or decisions involving:

  • family group conferences
  • care and protection proceedings in the Family Court relating to a child
  • a child or young person in the Youth Justice process

The Commissioner's office has any power that is reasonably necessary to carry out its role. This may include having access to records and conducting interviews with people concerned in the matter.

The investigation is private. It is also privileged, meaning that the Commissioner cannot be required to give evidence in any court or other judicial proceedings about anything that has come to the Commissioner's knowledge in exercising the office's statutory functions.

How do I contact the Commissioner's office to make a complaint?

You may contact the office of the Commissioner for Children on their website.

Other functions of the Commissioner for Children

In addition to carrying out investigations where appropriate, the Commissioner also has monitoring and informative functions. Specifically, this includes:

  • monitoring and assessing the policies and practices of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and other relevant bodies
  • encouraging the development within the Department of policies and services designed to promote the welfare of children and young people
  • undertaking and promoting research into relevant matters
  • inquiring generally into and reporting on relevant laws, practices and procedures
  • receiving and inviting representations from the public
  • increasing public awareness of matters relating to the welfare of children and young people
  • reviewing and making recommendations on the workings of the CHILDREN, YOUNG PERSONS, AND THEIR FAMILIES ACT 1989
  • producing an annual report
Cautionary notes
  • If you have any concerns about the functioning of a relevant public agency you should consult a lawyer, especially if a child has been harmed by the actions of an agency given control over his or her welfare.

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