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Criminal & traffic law

Getting protection under the Harassment Act


If you’re being harassed, you might be able to get:

  • A Protection Order, if you’re harassed or threatened by someone who you’re in a family or domestic relationship with (including an ex or current partner, a flatmate, or a member of your whānau). For more information about Protection Orders, see: “Family violence and elder abuse”. Family violence (which the law used to call “domestic violence”) can include a wide range of family and close personal relationships.
  • A Restraining Order, if you’re being harassed or threatened by a stranger, or someone in the community, or anyone else who doesn’t fit into the above category for a Protection Order.

The information in this chapter is about harassment by someone who you are not in a domestic relationship with, and how to take action to protect yourself under the Harassment Act 1997. You can apply to the District Court for a Restraining Order against the harasser, and in the most serious cases you can go to the police.

“Harassment” covers a wide range of behaviour, including things like stalking, abusive phone calls, and threatening letters. The Harassment Act recognises that behaviour that might see innocent or trivial on its own may amount to harassment when seen in context.

When you take action under the Harassment Act, you have to show:

  • first, that the behaviour amounts to “harassment” within the meaning of the Act, and
  • second, that the harassment meets the test for either:
    • obtaining a Restraining Order under the civil law parts of the Act, or
    • meets the higher test for criminal harassment.

What should I do if I’m being harassed?

If you’re being harassed, you can:

  • apply for a Restraining Order from the District Court under the “civil harassment” parts of the Act, and/or
  • report the harassment to the police, who (if the harassment meets the criteria) can charge the harasser with a criminal offence. If convicted, they could be jailed for up to two years (see: “Going to the police: When the criminal law can help with harassment”).

Note: A person’s behaviour can amount to both criminal and civil harassment. In those situations, you can both complain to the police and also apply to the District Court for a Restraining Order.

What is a Restraining Order?

Harassment Act 1997, ss 16, 19

A Restraining Order is a legal order granted by the District Court under the “civil harassment” parts of the Harassment Act.

If you get a Restraining Order against someone, they would then be committing a criminal offence if:

  • they contact you in any way, or
  • they do things like watch or hang around outside your home, or
  • following you or stopping you in the street, or
  • doing anything else that would make any reasonable person fear for their safety.

The order also makes it illegal for the harasser to threaten to do any of those things, or to encourage someone else to do any of those things to you.

If the order has been made because of a continuing act of harassment, it’s a condition of the order that the harasser must take reasonable steps to stop the act continuing. For example, if the harasser had posted offensive material about you online, they’ll have to take the offensive material down.

Will the harasser have a criminal record if I get a Restraining Order against them?

Just having a Restraining Order made against them doesn’t give the harasser a criminal record. However, it’s a criminal offence if they breach the order, and this will give the person a criminal record (see: “What happens if someone breaches a Restraining Order”). In this way a Restraining Order is similar to a Protection Order under the Family Violence Act.

Who can apply for a Restraining Order?

Harassment Act 1997, s 9, 11, 13, 14

Anyone who is being harassed (by someone that they’re not currently or previously in a family or domestic relationship with) can apply to the District Court for a Restraining Order.

You can apply at any time – there’s no time limit, but the judge will take into account how much time has passed since the behaviour when they’re deciding whether a Restraining Order is necessary to protect you.

It’s generally recommend to get a lawyer to help you with the application (see: “Will I need a lawyer to apply for the order”). If you’re under 17, or if you have a welfare guardian appointed, you can apply for a Restraining Order with the help of a representative. Even if a representative makes the application for you, you should still have a chance to share your opinion.

Who can’t be given a Restraining Order?

Harassment Act 1997, ss 9(4), 12

If the criteria for a Restraining Order are met, an order can be made against anyone, except that:

  • an order can’t be made against a child (that is, someone under 17) unless they’re married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship with their parents’ permission
  • an order can’t be made against someone who you are (or have been) in a family or domestic relationship with. In these cases you may be able to apply for a Protection Order under the Family Violence Act (see: “Family violence and elder abuse”).

Did this answer your question?

Bullying, harassment and sexual harm

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Victims Information

Victims Information is managed by the Ministry of Justice and provides links to a range of services available to help victims deal with the practical and emotional effects of the crime.

Website: www.victimsinfo.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 650 654

NZ Police

The police provide a list of phone counselling services and websites that can help victims of bullying and cyberbullying.

Website: www.police.govt.nz/about-site/other-sites/no-bully-website

Harassment and bullying in the workplace

The Worksafe New Zealand website has information and guidance about workplace bullying.

Website: www.worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/bullying-prevention-toolbox

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata/Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission website provides information about human rights in Aotearoa and outlines how you can make a complaint to the Commission.

Website: tikatangata.org.nz or www.hrc.co.nz
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz
Phone: 0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)

Information on racial harassment: www.hrc.co.nz/files/6714/2354/5062/24-Nov-2009_16-20-38_RacialHarassment-web.pdf

To make a complaint online, download a complaint form or find out more about the complaints process: tikatangata.org.nz/resources-and-support/make-a-complaint

YouthLaw Aotearoa

YouthLaw provides free legal advice for young people throughout New Zealand. Their website provides great information for young people about the law around harassment and bullying.

Website: www.youthlaw.co.nz
Email: nzyouthlaw@gmail.com
Phone: 0800 UTHLAW (0800 884 529)



NetSafe provides free and confidential help if you’ve been bullied, abused or harassed online. NetSafe has been appointed by the government to be a free information service and complaints agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

Website: www.netsafe.org.nz
Email: help@netsafe.org.nz
Phone: 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
Text: “Netsafe” to 4282

Ministry of Justice – applying for a Harmful Digital Communications Order

See the Ministry of Justice website for information about applying to a District Court judge for a “take down” order or other type of action when you’ve suffered serious emotional distress because of cyberbullying.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/courts/civil/harmful-digital-communications/applying-for-a-harmful-digital-communications-order

NOTE: Before you apply to the court you must have complained to NetSafe.

Support for sexual harassment and assault

Wellington Rape Crisis

Wellington Rape Crisis provides free social work and counselling services to survivors, along with their friends, family, whānau and supporters.

Website: wellingtonrapecrisis.org.nz
Phone: 04 801 8973
Email: support@wellingtonrapecrisis.org.nz


HELP has been Auckland’s specialist provider of sexual abuse support services since 1982.

Website: www.helpauckland.org.nz
Email: gethelp@helpauckland.org.nz
Phone: 0800 623 1700
Instagram: www.instagram.com/helpauckland

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa aims to enable all male survivors of sexual abuse to access a national network of a high quality support services.

Website: malesurvivor.nz

Contact your local support organisation: malesurvivor.nz/contact

Safe to Talk

Safe to Talk offers free confidential contact with a trained specialist at any time, day or night, seven days a week.

Website: safetotalk.nz
Email: support@safetotalk.nz
Phone: 0800 044 334
Text: 4334

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