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Criminal & traffic law

Getting protection under the Harassment Act

What counts as “harassment”?

What counts as “harassment” in the Harassment Act?

Harassment Act 1997, ss 3, 4

For there to be “harassment” as defined in the Harassment Act, there must be both of the following:

  • the type of behaviour set out in the Harassment Act, and
  • a pattern of behaviour (not just a one-off incident)

Step 1. Is it the type of behaviour that can amount to “harassment”?

These are the types of acts or incidents that can amount to harassment:

  • watching, hanging around, or blocking access to or from your home or workplace, or any other place you regularly or often visit
  • following, stopping or confronting you
  • coming into your home or onto your property, or interfering with your home or any of your things
  • contacting you – either by phone, letter, email or text, or through social media sites or apps like Facebook, or in any other way
  • giving you offensive material, or leaving it where you’ll find it or where someone else will give it to you or bring it to your attention – this includes posting offensive pictures or other material online
  • doing anything else that makes you fear for your safety, and that would make a reasonable person in your situation fear for their safety. This includes where the harasser does the thing to a member of your family, rather than to you directly, in order to target you, and even if that family member doesn’t in fact fear for their own safety.

Harassment Act 1997, s 17

Note: It won’t count as harassment if the person is behaving this way for a “lawful purpose”. For example, a debt collector is allowed to contact you in ways that might usually amount to harassment, because they have a lawful purpose for contacting you – though it might become harassment if they go outside of their lawful purpose (e.g., if they continue to contact you after you’ve paid the money).

Step 2. Is there a pattern of behaviour?

It won’t be harassment if the other person just does something once – like sending you a single text. There has to be a “pattern” of behaviour, which can be either of the following:

  • Twice in one year – There’ll be a pattern if the person does any of the things listed above (in Step 1) twice or more within 12 months. It doesn’t have to be the same kind of thing each time – for example, the harasser might first confront you outside your home, and then a week later leave an abusive note in your letterbox.
  • A continuing act – There’ll also be a pattern if the person does any of the things listed above as one continuing act over a period of time – for example, if they post abusive comments about you online and leave them there.

Harassing you indirectly through your family

Harassment Act 1997, s 5

It will also be harassment of you if any of the different acts that make up the pattern of harassment are done to your family members, rather than to you directly, in order to harass you – for example, if the harasser sends a letter to your teenage daughter, knowing this will upset you.

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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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