Why you should support a Modern Slavery Act in New Zealand

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Morgan Theakston
/ Categories: Modern Slavery

In 2019, New Zealand imported $3.1 billion of products at risk of being made with modern slavery, including clothing, footwear, toys, electronics, bananas, coffee, tobacco and furniture. In the Asia and Pacific region, four out of every 1,000 people are victims of forced labour.


The New Zealand Government has proposed legislation for a Modern Slavery Act that would protect workers in New Zealand and overseas.


Last year, over 100 New Zealand businesses and 37,000 Kiwis called on the New Zealand Government to introduce a Modern Slavery Act. A Modern Slavery Act would help ensure that slave-made goods have no place in New Zealand. It would send a message to the world that we won’t tolerate this injustice anymore, and we demand action now!

Thankfully, our voices have been heard. The government has responded and proposed legislation to address modern slavery and worker exploitation in New Zealand and internationally, across operations and supply chains.

But what does this mean and what is proposed? What is Tearfund asking people to do?

First, let’s quickly break the proposal down:

This law would essentially hold businesses accountable for knowing what’s happening in their supply chains. This includes the people and processes involved in making the things we buy, all the way from the original farm or facility where the raw materials are made, to the final factory where the product is packaged and bought by us. Companies with a higher annual revenue would have more responsibilities to act. Here’s a breakdown of what this would mean for different sized companies:



The government has stated the goals of this law are that:

+ Consumers have confidence that the goods and services they consume are not being produced by slave labour.

+ Businesses can operate on a more level playing field, where standards for workers are not compromised to cut costs. The legislation would also strengthen New Zealand’s international brand and make it easier for our businesses to continue to trade with the world.

+ Victims and survivors of exploitation will be treated fairly, with dignity and respect.


This law will mean companies are required to understand and address the risks of modern slavery and take actions to protect vulnerable people in their supply chains.

With no current requirements for companies to have transparent and traceable supply chains, it is extremely difficult for Kiwis to avoid buying goods that are not tainted by modern slavery. Businesses that make the effort to prevent slavery in their supply chains, face stiff competition from businesses that do not take these steps. This is because businesses that have exploitation in their supply chains can sell goods cheaper and more profitably, than those who are spending money on ensuring their supply chains are slave-free.

With robust modern slavery legislation, people will be able to have more assurance that the products they are purchasing are slavery-free.


This law will mean companies are required to understand and address the risks of modern slavery and take actions to protect vulnerable people in their supply chains.


Now, we need your voice:

Based on our experience researching this area and the learnings from similar legislation overseas, we think there are three essential elements this legislation needs to include for it to meet its stated goals. We’re asking Kiwis to make a submission in support of the proposed legislation and to emphasize the three core aspects we’re asking for to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand gets the best legislation possible:

1. A law that applies to international and domestic supply chains operating in Aotearoa New Zealand, to all entities of all sizes (small, medium and large businesses) and private and public sectors.

2. A law that provides for action, not just words. We support a due diligence law that requires entities to identify risks and cases of modern slavery and exploitation and take action to address what they find. From there, they should publicly report on those actions and the impacts they’ve had.

3. The government needs to make sure the law is followed. We ask for penalties for non-compliance with the law. This will set the law up from the onset to create positive change and help create a level playing field for businesses. 




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Morgan Theakston

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