Human Rights Act amendment to strengthen incitement laws

The Government is amending the Human Rights Act 1993 to include religious communities in the existing protections against incitement that have been in place since the 1970s.

It is already illegal to publish or distribute threatening, abusive, or insulting words likely to ‘excite hostility against’ or ‘bring into contempt’ any group on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins.

Those grounds will be extended, in both the civil (section 61) and criminal (section 131) provisions, to cover religious belief.

These changes follow extensive public feedback on six proposals

In June 2021, the Government asked the public if they think the current laws around incitement and discrimination should change. The Ministry of Justice issued a discussion document [PDF, 408 KB] setting out six proposals to strengthen the law against incitement of hatred and discrimination.

That public consultation closed on 6 August 2021 and attracted more than 19,000 submissions. We also engaged directly with a wide range of community groups by holding 30 meetings with 290 people across Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and also online.

Summaries of submissions from the general public and feedback from the targeted engagement are at the end of this section.

Seeking the right balance between protecting freedom of expression, ensuring everyone’s rights and interests are protected, and every person can express themselves without fear, is important for all New Zealanders.

After considering the feedback the Government has decided to immediately progress an amendment to the Act to address incitement towards religious communities. Improving protection for religious communities in our incitement laws was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019.

The Law Commission will review hate crime and incitement

The Government is referring wider and more complex aspects of our incitement and discrimination laws and hate crime to the Law Commission to undertake an independent fundamental review of these laws. This review will include how other groups, such as disabled and Rainbow communities, can be further protected.

Related documents

Proposals against incitement of hatred and discrimination: summary of submissions [PDF, 4.7 MB]

Making Aotearoa safer and more inclusive targeted engagement: summary of engagement [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Proposals against the incitement of hatred and discrimination: discussion document [PDF, 408 KB]

Royal Commission report(external link)

Law Commission(external link)

This page was last updated: