Emergency housing human rights concerns taken to the United Nations

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission has shared experiences of children and young people in emergency housing ahead of New Zealand’s review under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in Geneva this week.

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission has shared experiences of children and young people in emergency housing ahead of New Zealand’s review under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in Geneva this week.

“The government must be accountable for its emergency housing system. We’ve heard too many stories of children traumatised by emergency housing,” says Te Amokapua Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.

“Emergency housing should provide a safe place for children. It must meet their human right to a decent home, grounded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It must be consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In December 2022, the Commission released its review of the emergency housing system, which found significant breaches of human rights. The review highlighted the stress that children and young people have experienced in emergency housing.

“We heard from young people who would rather live on the street than in emergency housing because they found it inappropriate, stressful and for some, traumatising. They told us their experiences taught them not to trust the government or social support providers,” says Hunt.

Putting human rights and values such as manaakitanga at the centre of the government’s emergency housing system are needed to build ‘trust’ in the system, says Hunt.

Governments are periodically examined by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to make sure the government is fulfilling its obligations in relation to children’s rights. This examination is New Zealand’s 6th Review under the Convention, the last was in 2016. A New Zealand Government delegation is in Geneva to answer questions from the UN Committee about how the Government are progressing children’s rights in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

The Chief Commissioner has also lodged the Commission’s emergency housing report with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal.

In 2020, previous UN Special Rapporteur, Leilani Farha, found in her visit to Aotearoa New Zealand that successive governments had contributed – by neglect - to a housing and human rights crisis.

Tangata Whenua experienced the violence of colonisation, where the Crown sought to dispossess them of lands, resources and their way of life. 

“The over-representation of Māori in emergency housing shows the ongoing impact of the process of colonisation. 

“This understanding is fundamental to achieve improved housing outcomes for Māori. The emergency housing system should respect tino rangatiratanga for Māori, as obligated under te Tiriti o Waitangi,” says Hunt.

Tangata Whenua, Pacific peoples, disabled people, single-parent families, children and young people are also more likely to face challenges in accessing adequate housing.

“Advocates and families told us there is a generation of children growing up in emergency housing with nowhere to call home. We urgently need to commit to a housing system that puts human rights at its heart, if we are going to deliver the human right to a decent home for everyone in Aotearoa,” says Hunt.



  • The Commission’s review of emergency housing, Homelessness and human rights: A review of the emergency housing system in Aotearoa New Zealand is available at https://housing.hrc.co.nz/issue-emergency
  • Also in attendance in Geneva are members of New Zealand’s Children’s Monitoring Group including the Children’s Commissioner, Judge Frances Eivers, representatives of Save the Children, the Children’s Rights Alliance and Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human RIghts Commission. You can see a press release from the group in attendance here: https://www.occ.org.nz/publications/media-releases/new-zealand-government-under-spotlight-at-un-review-on-childrens-rights-progress/
  • New Zealand’s examination begins on Friday morning (3am NZ Time) and ends early Saturday morning (1am NZ Time). You can watch the examination live or on-demand on UN WebTV.
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child regardless of ethnicity, religion or ability. It consists of 54 articles that set out children’s rights and how government agencies should work together to make these rights available to all children. Governments are required to meet children’s basic needs and help them reach their full potential.
  • The Convention is about providing, in a holistic way, the optimal conditions for childhood.
  • By ratifying the Convention, the New Zealand Government agreed to take all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights in the Convention.
  • Under the Human Rights Act, the Commission has a function to promote and monitor compliance and reporting by the New Zealand government on international human rights instruments ratified by New Zealand.
  • The Human Rights Commission is an A-Status national human rights institution under the UN Paris Principles, which means the Commission has rights of standing before UN treaty-bodies like the Child Rights Committee.