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Community life

Harassment in the community: Getting protection under the Harassment Act

What a restraining order does

Standard conditions of restraining orders

Harassment Act 1997, s 19

A restraining order makes it a criminal offence for the harasser to contact you in any way, or to do things like watching or hanging around outside your home, or following you or stopping you in the street, or doing anything else that gives you a reasonable fear for your safety.

The order also makes it illegal for the harasser to threaten to do any of those things, or to encourage one of their friends or any other person to do one 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 this continuing. For example, if the harasser had posted offensive material about you online, they’ll have to take the offensive material down.

For a full list of the kinds of behaviour that are banned under a restraining order, see above, “What counts as ‘harassment’”.

Special conditions of restraining orders

Harassment Act 1997, s 20

When a judge makes a restraining order, they can also add any special conditions they think are reasonably necessary to protect you from more harassment – for example, requiring the harasser to stay away from a particular public place that you regularly visit.

The judge can specify how long the special condition will last for. If they don’t specify this, the condition lasts for as long as the restraining order lasts (see below, “How long does a restraining order last for?”).

Protection from others who’ve been encouraged to harass you

Harassment Act 1997, ss 10, 18

If the harasser has encouraged another person to harass you, a restraining order can also be made against that other person. This other person is called an “associated respondent”. The conditions of the restraining order apply to the associated respondent just as they do to the main harasser (“the respondent”).

When does the restraining order first take effect?

If the judge grants a restraining order, it takes effect straight away and from that point the harasser must obey the conditions of the order.

However, the harasser can’t be charged and prosecuted for any breach of the order until they’ve been “served” with the order (that is, given it personally). This will be done by either a court bailiff, a private process server or the police hand-delivering a copy of the order to them.

A copy of the order will also be given to you and to the local police station.

How long does a restraining order last for?

Harassment Act 1997, ss 21–24

A restraining order can be made for as long as the judge thinks is necessary to protect you. If the judge doesn’t specify a particular period, the order lasts for one year.

If the judge does specify a period for the order, this can later be extended if this is necessary to protect you from more harassment.

Either you or the harasser can apply for the restraining order to be ended (“discharged”) before it is due to end. The judge will need to be convinced that the order is no longer necessary.

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Harassment and bullying

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Victims Information


Phone: 0800 650 654
Email: victimsinfo@justice.govt.nz

This is the website of the government’s “Victims Centre”. The site provides links to a range of services available to help victims deal with the practical and emotional effects of the crime, at each stage of the criminal and youth justice process.

Human Rights Commission


Phone: 0800 496 877
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz

The Human Rights Commission website has information about your rights if you’re sexually or racially harassed:

“Sexual harassment” guide

Racial harassment

Harassment and bullying in the workplace


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

YouthLaw Aotearoa


Phone: 0800 UTHLAW (0800 884 529)
Email: nzyouthlaw@gmail.com

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.

Ministry of Justice

Applying for a Harmful Digital Communications Order

This has 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:


Help with online bullying, abuse and harassment


Go to this website for 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.

NZ Police


This police webpage lists a number of phone counselling services and websites that can help.

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