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Challenging decisions and conduct of government agencies


This section is intended to help you understand your rights when dealing with government departments and other public bodies, like Work and Income, Inland Revenue, Housing New Zealand and the Accident Compensation Corporation (“ACC”).

If a government agency has made a decision about you that you’re unhappy with, you’ll usually have a number of options for challenging the decision:

  • Internal reviews – Most agencies will provide you with an opportunity to ask them to reconsider their decision, by getting a supervisor or a different staff member to look at it, before you need to appeal to an independent reviewer outside their organisation.
    • For example, when Work and Income reviews a decision, they will do an internal review first, and then a second review by a Benefit Review Committee, which consists of two Work and Income staff and one independent community representative (see: “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals”), before your challenge goes to an external body. ACC also completes an “administrative review” process before your challenge goes to an external review (see: “Challenging an ACC decision”).
  • Specialist appeal bodies and commissioners – There will often be a specific appeal or review body for the type of decision you’re unhappy about, one that’s outside and independent of the agency that made it.
    • For example, if a Work and Income decision hasn’t changed after going through an internal review and a Benefit Review Committee (see above), you can appeal to the Social Security Appeal Authority, which is an independent tribunal. Similarly, if an ACC administrative review doesn’t change the decision that you’re unhappy with, you can (after trying mediation) ask for an independent review by the organisation, FairWay Resolution.
    • There are also specialist commissioners and authorities for particular issues – for example, the Privacy Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission can receive complaints about a wide range of government departments and other public bodies and officials, as well as private businesses and individuals (see: “Help from officials overseeing specific areas”).
  • The Ombudsman – The Ombudsman play a general watchdog role over government decisions and behaviour. They answer to parliament, not the government. Complaining to the Ombudsman may be an effective option if there is not a specialist appeal or review body you can go to, or if it’s not the content of a decision you’re unhappy with but instead the process that was followed or the way you were dealt with – for example, if an agency ignored your emails or phone calls about a problem. Although usually the Ombudsman can only make recommendations rather than binding orders, their recommendations are taken very seriously and are usually followed by government officials (see: “The Ombudsman: Watchdogs over government”).
  • Going to the courts (“Judicial review”) – If you think a government agency or individual official has gone outside their legal powers in making a decision, you can challenge this in the courts. This is called “judicial review”. To do this, you’ll have to go to the High Court. Usually, the judge will focus on whether the decision-maker followed the process the law sets down for making the decision (see: “Going to the courts: ‘Judicial review’”).

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Dealing with government agencies

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

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman handles complaints about Government agencies.

Website: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
Email: office@ombudsmen.parliament.nz
Phone: 0800 802 602

To make a complaint online: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/get-help-public

Privacy Commissioner

The Privacy Commissioner website provides information about your rights and responsibilities under the Privacy Act 2020 and the Privacy Principles.  It also outlines the role of the Privacy Commissioner and how to make a privacy complaint.

Website: www.privacy.org.nz
Email: enquiries@privacy.org.nz
Phone: 0800 803 909

To make a complaint online: www.privacy.org.nz/your-rights/making-a-complaint

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

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

Health and Disability Commissioner

The Health and Disability Commissioner website sets out your rights under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights and how you can make a complaint to the Commissioner.

Website: www.hdc.org.nz
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz
Phone: 0800 11 22 33

To make a complaint online: www.hdc.org.nz/making-a-complaint/make-a-complaint-to-hdc

Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA)

The Independent Police Conduct Authority website has information about how the Authority receives and investigates complaints about the Police.

Website: www.ipca.govt.nz
Email: info@ipca.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 503 728

To make a complaint online: www.complaints.ipca.govt.nz/195

Directory of Official Information

The Directory of Official Information lists the information each central government body holds.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/about/official-information-act-requests/directory-of-official-information

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