Government seeking feedback on social cohesion and proposals to address hate speech

Tue 13 Jul 2021

The Government is running two separate consultations on two related work programmes.

The first consultation is focused on strengthening social cohesion. The second consultation is focused on proposals addressing incitement of hatred and discrimination - sometimes called hate speech.

The closing date to give feedback for both consultations is
6 August 2021.

Update: The consultation on social cohesion closing date has been extended to  31 October 2021.

Both consultations are part of the Government's response to recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain (mosques).

When announcing the consultations Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment, Priyanca Radhakrishnan said “Our diversity extends across ethnicity, culture, gender identities and expressions, religion, values and beliefs, ages, disabilities, sexual orientation, and the structure of our families."

Minister for Justice Kris Faafoi said “The context for creating a socially cohesive society in Aotearoa New Zealand is underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Te Ao Māori perspectives and the Māori-Crown relationship.

“Building social cohesion, inclusion and valuing diversity can also be a powerful means of countering the actions of those who seek to spread or entrench discrimination and hatred.”

Social cohesion consultation

The consultation on social cohesion is being led by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). MSD is asking for feedback through an online survey about strengthening social cohesion in Aotearoa New Zealand and building a safer, more tolerant and inclusive society.

The background to the survey states:

"Social cohesion is about enabling everyone to belong, participate and have confidence in our public institutions. The Royal Commission acknowledged that while there is a lot of government activity in this area, there isn’t a purposeful and overarching strategy and action plan that shows what the government is trying to achieve, what work is being done and the areas for improvement. They also noted that the voices of communities, civil society, local government, and the private sector have been missing from this work."

The survey asks questions in 4 areas:

"1. What does social cohesion mean to you and what would Aotearoa New Zealand look like if social cohesion was improved?

2. How will we know if we are making progress? What does success look like?

3. We have done a review of the research about what works to strengthen social cohesion – this is summarised as the six ways of building social cohesion. We are keen to know whether these six ways look right to you and whether there are other things that might work.

4. What actions should government take or support to build better social cohesion, and who could be involved in the work?"

The survey is available online in 13 languages and alternate formats including large print, easy read, NZ Sign Language video and an audio version.

You can also provide written feedback by:

  • emailing 
  • writing to Ministry of Social Development, Attn: Social cohesion team, PO Box 1556, Wellington 6140.

Update: The Government has launched Te Korowai Whetū Social Cohesion strategic framework and community fund. The strategic framework outlines actions and outcomes to achieve a central vision of social cohesion in Aotearoa New Zealand. Resources are also available including information sheets, a summary of feedback, a baseline report and a measurement framework. Advocate Anjum Rahman has written article calling for the social cohesion framework to be applied to government first. Minister Radhakrishnan also announced a $2 million community fund to support local and community-based social cohesion initiatives. Te Korowai Whetū Social Cohesion community fund is being administered by the Ministry of Social Development. For more information see the cabinet papers related to strengthening social cohesion in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Proposals against incitement of hatred and discrimination consultation

This consultation is being led by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The MOJ consultation webpage states that "An important part of achieving social cohesion is to stand against conduct and language that harms people. We are stronger because of our diversity. Experiences of hatred can make people feel unsafe and unwelcome in the places they should feel at home."

The MOJ Discussion Document explains that the proposals in this consultation relate specifically to speech that incites hatred against a group. It notes

"The proposals and the current provisions in the Human Rights Act focus on speech that ‘incites hatred’ in other people towards a group. Speech that ‘incites hatred’ is abusive or threatening speech that stirs up hostility towards a group of people (rather than being directed at one person) based on a common characteristic they share."

The discussion document further explains that:

" ‘Hate speech’ is a broad term that is not used in Aotearoa New Zealand law. It is generally defined as speech that attacks an individual or group based on a common characteristic, for example ethnicity, religion, or sexuality."

The consultation is asking for feedback on 6 proposals. The proposals focus on strengthening parts of existing law that protect groups from speech that incites hatred and improving protections against discrimination. The MOJ consultation states "The incitement of hatred against a group based on a shared characteristic, such as ethnicity, religion or sexuality, is an attack on our values of inclusiveness and diversity. Such incitement is intolerable and has no place in our society."

The 6 proposals relate to:

"1. Changing the language in the incitement provisions in the Human Rights Act 1993 so that they protect more groups that are targeted by hateful speech

2. Replacing the existing criminal provision in the Human Rights Act 1993 with a new criminal offence in the Crimes Act 1961 that is clearer and more effective

3. Increasing the punishment for the criminal offence to better reflect its seriousness

4. Changing the language of the civil incitement provision to match the changes being made to the criminal provision

5. Changing the civil provision so that it makes ‘incitement to discriminate’ against the law

6. Adding to the grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act to clarify that trans, gender diverse and intersex people are protected from discrimination."

The purpose of the proposals is to:

"-Increase the number of groups of people that are protected by the incitement provisions, such as religious groups and rainbow communities

-Make it clearer what behaviour the law prohibits and increase the consequences for breaking the law

-Improve the protections for groups against wider discrimination."

Feedback from this consultation will be used to give advice to Ministers about if and how to change the laws.

MOJ has published a discussion document and summary document in different languages and alternate formats. The consultation webpage also has links to Cabinet Papers.

You can give feedback

Update: The Ministry of Justice received more than 19,000 submissions during this consultation. The Ministry of Justice published Proposals against incitement of hatred and discrimination: summary of submissions and Making Aotearoa safer and more inclusive targeted engagement: summary of engagement. In November 2022, Justice Minister Kiri Allan announced that a bill would be introduced to make changes to the  Human Rights Act to extend protections to religious belief. Minister Allan also announced that the Government has asked Te Aka Matua o te Ture - The Law Commission to undertake a " of legal responses to hate-motivated offending, and of speech that expresses hostility towards, or contempt for, people who share a common characteristic. This will include whether further protections should be afforded to specific groups, including the Rainbow and disabled communities." Minister Allan said “Until the Law Commission has done that work, there will be no changes to the definition of groups protected from discrimination, or any changes to how the existing legal regime against incitement operates in terms of thresholds, offences or penalties, as originally proposed.” 

Update: The government has released feedback from the submissions from the incitement and hate speech law consultation.

Related Aotearoa New Zealand resources and information on hate speech

The final report from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain was publicly released in December 2020. Part 9, Chapter 4 of the final report looks at areas for improvement in New Zealand's legal framework and Police practice to address hate crime and hate speech. In addition, the Royal Commission also published a paper about the concepts of hate speech and hate crime, New Zealand’s current laws and proposals for change.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission is encouraging all New Zealanders to participate in the consultation. In December 2019 the Commission published a resource on the legal framework governing hate speech - Korero Whakamauāhara: Hate Speech. The resource includes definitions of hate speech and outlines the legal framework in New Zealand and overseas.

Netsafe published research in 2019 about the personal experiences of adult New Zealanders in relation to online hate speech, and comparisons to Australia and Britain.  

Related news

The new Ministry for Ethnic Communities was launched on 1 July 2021. The Ministry will continue to deliver the work of the Office of Ethnic Communities, but will build additional functions and influence across the public sector. The media release noted that the priorities of the new Ministry will be:

  • "Promoting the value of diversity and improving the inclusion of ethnic communities in wider society
  • Ensuring government services are accessible and for ethnic communities
  • Improving economic outcomes for ethnic communities, including addressing barriers to employment
  • Connecting and empowering ethnic community groups."

The new Ministry is one of the Government's initiatives in response to the recommendations to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Masjidain. For more information see the new Ministry's website:

Related media

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Our rainbow community is under attack, I am asking you to pay attention, Stuff, 27.11.2022

Shaneel Lal: Hate speech ban should extend to queers, women and disabled, NZ Herald, 27.11.2022

Hate speech laws: Government proposes one change to Human Rights Act after years of divisive debate, Newshub, 19.11.2022

A lot has changed since March 15, 2019 – but not enough, The Spinoff, 15.03.2022

Trust and confidence in police being damaged by response to hate crime, report says, Stuff, 08.12.2021

‘We work in the grey’: Police grapple with hate crimes, Newsroom, 03.12.2021

Police improves our response to hate crime, NZ Police media release, 02.12.2021

UK study shows link between domestic violence and radicalisation risk, Reuters, 25.11.2021

The makings of a terrorist – and the people who tried to help him, Stuff, 11.09.2021

The potential dangers of pre-emptive anti-terrorist legislation, Stuff, 10.09.2021

Is NZ equipped to rehabilitate those who pose a risk of violent extremism?, Stuff, 10.09.2021

MPs accelerate new terrorism laws, despite protest from Greens and ACT, Stuff, 09.09.2021

How to stop the next terrorist, Newsroom, 08.09.2021

Tāmaki Ethnic Women (TEW) Is Devastated By The New Lynn Terror Attack, Press Release: Tamaki Ethnic Women, Scoop, 07.09.2021

Hate speech, social cohesion consultation ‘not authentic engagement’, Newsroom, 03.09.2021

Intimidation, Threats Against Human Rights Defenders & Lack Of Government Response Creates “Human Rights Crisis” In NZ, Press Release: The Manaaki Collective, Scoop, 15.07.2021

“The Manaaki Collective” Site And Fund Established To Support Victims Of Digital Harassment, Press Release: The Manaaki Collective, Scoop, 14.07.2021

Hate speech docs show other options on the table, Newsroom, 06.07.2021

Proposed Changes To Hate Speech Laws, Press Release: Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand, Scoop, 05.07.2021

Hate speech proposals should have started with Te Tiriti, Stuff, 05.07.2021

Hate speech laws explained: what do they mean, and will they really impact on free speech?, Stuff, 02.07.2021

Muddled speech debate distracts from the real issue: Protecting Kiwis from hate, Stuff, 01.07.2021

Race Commissioner keen on tougher hate speech law, Waatea News, 29.06.2021

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Image: Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash

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