First New Zealand Report on Implementing the CRPD

Source: UN OHCHR


Where we stand

1                         New Zealand’s vision of full participation and improved wellbeing for disabled people of all ages has developed over several decades. The process began in the 1970s with a paradigm shift from exclusion and care outside mainstream society to a social model of disability, with inclusion and mainstreaming as the default option, and supplementary support services for disabled people as required.

2                         The adoption of a national Disability Strategy has further advanced this vision:[1] Since 2000, New Zealand law has required a national Disability Strategy[2], under which the Minister for Disability Issues is required to report to Parliament annually on progress made. The Disability Strategy, which includes initiatives across government, is reviewed on an ongoing basis.

3                         New Zealand’s vision is reflected in its support for the Convention: The principles given effect in the Disability Strategy provided the basis for New Zealand’s role in the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention). The shift in approach undertaken since the 1970s enabled New Zealand to ratify the Convention in September 2008.

4                         The legislative framework is sound and comprehensive:[3] The rights of disabled people are provided for in New Zealand’s general human rights law, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, in its specialised non-discrimination law, the Human Rights Act 1993, and in specific recognition in legislation governing health, education and other social services. Before ratifying the Convention, New Zealand reviewed its law for consistency with the Convention and made necessary amendments.

Engagement with disabled people

5                         Disabled people are essential partners: Partnerships between government, disabled people and their families, and the disability sector along with robust means of communication underpin New Zealand’s continued commitment to its broad vision and to the Convention:

5.1                   Disabled people were members of the New Zealand delegation for the negotiation of the Convention;

5.2                   As part of its engagement with the negotiations, the Government established a standing disability sector reference group. The reference group has continued as a key means of consultation and currently comprises 74 representatives of disabled people, family members, disability advocates and disability service providers;

5.3                   In both the negotiation and the ratification of the Convention, the Government sought wider input from disability organisations and providers, including the perspectives of children and their advocates.

Our challenges

6                         Disabled people are still disadvantaged: While there have been, and continue to be, improvements, many disabled people experience poorer outcomes in health, education, employment and elsewhere. The degree of relative disadvantage is still greater for women and for M?ori and Pacific people.

7                         Disabled people still experience social discrimination and practical barriers: While the Government has taken many steps to strengthen the standing of disabled people, constraints remain in the attitudes of some people, who see disabled people as less than equal. There are also physical and environmental barriers: for example, New Zealand’s small population and geographic diversity means that some services are concentrated in main centres and are not readily accessible in more remote areas.

8                         Data about disabled people is still limited: While a range of data is collected, more is needed. As one response, the forthcoming national census is to be followed by an improved survey of disabled people to gather more detailed and more specific data.[4]

9                         Support for disabled people can better reflect different cultural contexts: Across New Zealand’s increasingly diverse community, attitudes to disabled people and to appropriate means of support can vary between different cultural groups. The Government includes requirements of cultural sensitivity when contracting for support services and is encouraging the development of indigenous providers and providers using indigenous cultural frameworks. Indigenous provision is still in its early stages.

Going forward

10                     There is leadership at the highest level: Disabled New Zealanders have an advocate in the Minister for Disability Issues, supported by a Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues[5] and an Office for Disability Issues.[6]

11                     The Government has set priorities for addressing the challenges that we face:[7] An independent implementation review found government agencies have undertaken a significant level of activity to implement the Disability Strategy but more is needed to produce real improvements in outcomes for disabled people.[8] Rather than each agency having their own action plan and focus, having a single combined action plan and priorities was recommended.

12                     Realising the rightful place of disabled people in New Zealand society is an ongoing and multi-generational goal. The New Zealand Government is developing a Disability Action Plan and is taking concrete actions around three current priorities:

12.1               Accessible New Zealand – including enhanced community acceptance and improved access to transport and to information;

12.2               Enabling disability supports – allowing disabled people autonomy, wherever possible, and providing support as early as possible;

12.3               Contributing as citizens – better ensuring that disabled people can achieve in education and in paid work and can fully experience access to justice and all other rights as members of the community.

 Preparation of this report

13                     In keeping with its engagement with disabled people, the Government consulted widely in preparing this report:

13.1               The report and the proposed consultation process were both considered from the outset by the standing disability sector reference group;

13.2               A draft was circulated for comment both within the disability sector and across the community as a whole, and consultation procedures also included eight formal meetings, an online discussion forum, an invitation to provide written submissions and a separate survey for young disabled people and their families. Several of the consultation meetings were targeted at particular groups, including M?ori and Pacific peoples. Several hundred people and groups took up one or more of these opportunities.


[1]  See, further, Annex, paragraph 6.

[2] The New Zealand Disability Strategy.

[3] See, further, paragraph 14 below.

[4] The national census and disability survey were to occur in 2011. They have been delayed as a result of the major earthquake in Christchurch in February 2011, with new dates to be set shortly.

[5] See, further, Annex, paragraph 1.

[6] The Office for Disability Issues is the government agency responsible for promoting and monitoring the Disability Strategy and the UN Convention. It supports the Minister for Disability Issues and the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues.

[7] See, further, Annex, paragraph 4.

[8] Litmus Ltd, Progress Report - 2006/2007 Review of New Zealand Disability Strategy Implementation, August 2008.