Media release: Government's dangerous statement about encryption doesn't make sense

Today the government announced that, while it supported the use of encryption on the internet, it was proposing to fatally undermine the use of encryption on the internet. 

Joint calls for overhaul of OIA

The Child Poverty Action Group, Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, JustSpeak, New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International are calling for a comprehensive, independent review of the Official Information Act 1982 (the OIA) following growing concern that it’s not fit for purpose.

The OIA is used every day by journalists, charities, activists, the curious, and by people wanting to know about government actions and policies that affect their lives.

2020 Election: what we'd like to see from the parties

The 2020 election is approaching and the political parties are starting to make their promises. Rather than score the parties' manifestos on civil liberty grounds, we thought we'd approach it from the other side and list the top six things we'd like to see:

NZCCL response to the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill

We were recently asked if we would provide feedback on the government's draft Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill. This law is to provide a legal basis for the government's ongoing measure to limit the spread of the Covid-19 disease.

Unfortunately we were only given 16 hours to review it, a time which is really not sufficient for an in-depth analysis of a Bill which will have such an impact on our lives for the next two years.

Co-signed: Statement on the COVID-19 response from civil society members of OGP Steering Committee

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties endorses and co-signs the letter from the GOP Steering Committee about Covid-19 and its risks to open government.

Guest post: Bail can't be subverted for COVID-19 purposes

Douglas Ewen, barrister and member of the NZCCL, has written to Solicitor-General Una Jagose about what he views as unreasonable and unlawful changes to bail and sentencing practice during the current COVID-19 lockdown.

He says that, contrary to the Solicitor General's advice, the Bail Act does not allow for bail to be withheld because a person either has or might have COVID-19, nor does it allow for special conditions to be imposed on those grounds. 

Pandemic response - recommended reading

Some useful articles about civil liberties during a pandemic. Last updated 7 May 2020.

Civil Liberties

Coronavirus Tech Handbook - Law & Justice Resources for Law, Lawyers, Courts, Justice System

Brussels Privacy Hub: data-protection-law-and-the-covid-19-outbreak

Privacy Foundation NZ:

End the Police Armed Response Team trials

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties has co-signed the open letter from Just Speak calling for an end to the Armed Response Teams being trialed by the Police.

Civil liberties during a pandemic

There is no doubt that our government will need to take on exceptional powers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the health of all New Zealanders. We support the government's actions so far in doing so, and note that they appear to be proportionate and justifiable.

We approve of the establishment of a cross-party Select Committee, headed by the Leader of the Opposition, to provide oversight of the actions of the Government while Parliament is closed. Of course we hope that we return to full Parliamentary scrutiny as soon as possible.

No to police patrolling in armed squads

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties strongly objects to the Armed Responders trial by Police that is currently underway, and to the decisions of district commanders to order officers to carry firearms while on general duty.

Government's half measure fails to fix prisoner voting

The NZCCL is disappointed that the Government continues to support the idea that prisoners in New Zealand don't have the right to vote.

While undoing the law change made in 2010 has some value, in that roughly 1900 more New Zealanders will be able to vote at the next election, we fail to understand the principle behind the position that some prisoners should be able to vote while others can't.

Chairperson's Report 2019

Issues and events in NZ

Christchurch Massacre

The most significant event this year in New Zealand was undoubtedly the Christchurch Massacre on March 15th. 51 innocent people were killed and many more injured by a zealot who had become radicalised in online communities where people encouraged each other’s hatred. The horrific nature of the event was a shock to everyone and the ramifications of the event are still being felt.

We oppose the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties is highly concerned by the potential impact on people’s civil liberties that would arise from the government's Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill.

Politicians are failing in the oversight of our intelligence agencies

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties exists to help protect the civil liberties of New Zealanders from government overreach. A key area of concern is, and will always be, the actions of the state security forces such as the police and intelligence agencies. This is the sharp end of government power, where a government can exert force over people, spy on them, damage their reputation, or imprison them. 

Media Release: Scandalising the court is an attack on freedom of expression

After the Select Committee removed it in response to submissions, the government has surprised everyone by reintroducing the crime of "scandalising the court" in the now renamed Contempt of Court Bill

The Bill makes it an offence to undermine public confidence in the judiciary or the courts by publishing false statements, punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a fine of up to $25,000 ($100.000 for a body corporate).

Concern over Customs interrogating person over manuscript

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties views with concern the reports about NZ Customs stopping Matthew Blomfield at the border to interrogate him about a book manuscript he was carrying with him (original report is in a series of tweets from lawyer Felix Geiringer). We are further concerned with the description of that interrogation in that it appears to have involved the Customs officer making false claims about the extent of their powers.

In particular we are concerned that:

Report: Statistics NZ Data Summit 2018

NZCCL committee member Andrew Ecclestone went to the Statistics NZ Data Summit in 2018.

We’ll discuss balancing the tensions between data innovation and protecting privacy – ensuring New Zealanders have trust and confidence in the way their data is used. We’ll learn about data sovereignty from an international and New Zealand perspective. And we'll take an in-depth look at privacy, ethics and algorithms.

The Case for a Full Review of the Official Information Act

The NZCCL's submission in response to the call for submissions on reviewing the Official Information Act.


The NZ Council for Civil Liberties firmly believes that New Zealand's Official Information Act needs a comprehensive review.

Secret evidence is unjust and should be banned

Let's be clear about what secret evidence is. It's not evidence that can't be reported in the media, and it's not evidence where the judge clears the court of all people not directly participating in the trial.

Secret evidence is evidence that the defendant, the person accused of the crime, is not allowed to see or hear, and therefore cannot challenge. The use of secret evidence makes a mockery of our justice system.

Christchurch massacre and censorship

The Christchurch massacre has led to some new developments in the practice of censorship in New Zealand. This post is an attempt to record what happened and, while it does not make any judgements, there are some questions at the end.

The video

The attack was livestreamed and the video was quickly shared, removed, and then re-uploaded many times.

Letter re the failings of the warranting process for the SIS and GCSB

Minister for National Security and Intelligence

Minister Ardern,

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties would like to know what actions the Minister intends the Government to take in response to the Inspector General of Intelligence Services’ (IGIS) December 2018 report Warrants Issued Under the Intelligence and Security Act 2017.

Media release: Welcome prisoner voting decisions from the Supreme Court

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the decision by the Supreme Court today, that the legislation that denied persons convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of less than 3 years the right to vote, contravenes the protections provided in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Chairperson's Report 2018

It’s been an interesting year for civil liberties with events, particularly overseas, bringing up some new ways of looking at the meaning of freedom of speech in the digital age.

Issues and events in NZ

In New Zealand the freedom of expression issue was seen in the furore around the visit of Canadian provocateurs Laura Southern and Stefan Molyneux, and the cancellation of local politician Don Brash’s talk at Massey University.

Media release: Customs new powers an unjustified invasion of privacy

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties is disappointed to see the law allowing Customs to demand people unlock their digital devices coming into effect.

Media release: A Better Official Information Act

It has become a truism that that Official Information Act needs to be fixed. 

Ask any journalist and for every story where the Act is working well there are many more stories where it is not. There are delays upon delays, responses that don't answer questions, spurious use of withholding grounds, and even straight out refusals to release information. 

A Better Official Information Act

Our history

The Official Information Act is the legal expression of a very simple idea - we've got a right to know what our government is doing. The OIA is used every day by journalists, activists, the curious, and by people wanting to know about government actions and the policies that affect their lives. It has been a powerful tool for open and accountable government.

Media release: Immigration Minister called on to uphold New Zealand's human rights reputation

The Minister for Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway, should ensure prominent human rights voices are able to be heard at the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) 2018 General Assembly in Auckland in August.

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties is concerned to learn that IHEU board members and speakers have had their visa applications refused or are still waiting for decisions after several months. (See Stuff article.)

Civil liberties and reasonable limits on freedom of expression

We support freedom of expression as a key civil liberty in a democratic society but recognise that this can reasonably be limited for the good of society. 
We believe that any such limits should be: made democratically, as minimal as possible, based in law, and administered fairly.
We understand that not all harms can be eliminated, particularly when the proposed limits are ineffectual or do more damage to society than the harms we're attempting to stop.

Media release: IGIS report ignores morality of NZ spying in South Pacific

Surveillance is a civil liberties issue says NZCCL

Media release: Disappointment as Government says it has no plans to reform the Official Information Act

Contrary to reporting last year, it seems that the Government currently has no plans to reform the Official Information Act.