Definition of Youth

New Zealand’s national youth development strategy defines young people as between the ages of 12-24 years.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • 18
  • Female
  • 18
  • 16
  • 18

  • Same-sex marriage is legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
From 10-14 years old, the state must prove criminal capacity. A child below 10 cannot be held legally responsible for their actions. Source:  Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act

Majority Age


Source: Age of Majority Act (1970)

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • -- Male (15-24) %
  • -- Female (15-24) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 96.84%Male %
  • 97.09% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 18.70% Male (13-15) %
  • 21.50% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
New Zealand has a national youth development strategy. An extensive review was undertaken in 2009.

The national youth development strategy vision is for a “country where young people are vibrant and optimistic through being supported and encouraged to take up challenges.” The policy focuses on four goals:

  1. Ensuring a consistent strengths-based youth development approach.
  2. Developing skilled people to work with young people.
  3. Creating opportunities for young people to actively participate and engage.
  4. Building knowledge on youth development through information and research.
The strategy takes a “positive youth development” approach with regard to international obligations and indigenous communities in particular.  It is closely linked to the Agenda for Children and various health, crime and protection plans.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Youth Development is an amalgamation of the former Ministry of Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Social Development’s previous responsibility for youth policy.  The Ministry supports young people in “using their knowledge, skills and experience to participate confidently in their communities.” It has three key functions: (1) Encouraging and supporting a youth development approach;(2) Supporting and facilitating youth involvement and input into decision-making processes, and; (3) Funding of youth development services.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
No independent national youth council could be located, however, a range of participation structures exist under the Ministry of Youth Development. The national Aotearoa Youth Voices network brings together “young people, government and community decision-makers.” Members of the network can then be selected to the National Youth Advisory Group, which “provide[s] government and community agencies with timely advice on many different issues.” The annual Youth Parliament also offers a ‘mock’ Parliament session.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
NZD 9 million
USD 7.4 million
The 2013/14 budget estimates provides, NZD 5.2 million (USD 4.3 million) for the provision of implementation of the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa, NZD 889,000 (USD 727,534) for the Youth Development Partnership Fund and NZD 2.9 million  (USD 2.7 million) for leadership and service delivery to promote the interests of, and improve outcomes for, young people. According to the World Bank, New Zealand spent 16.08% of its government expenditure on education provision in 2008, and 7.26% of its GDP in 2011.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

The national youth development strategy (2002) details the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous young people:

The Treaty of Waitangi is significant in defining us as New Zealanders and in setting out our relationships and responsibilities.

The Treaty maintains the protection of Ma ̄ori as both tangata whenua and citizens of New Zealand. By recognising Ma ̄ori rangatiratanga, it supports collective action for Ma ̄ori to organise themselves and relate to other parts of the community.

This is how Ma ̄ori maintain their identity and protect and develop themselves - and is essential for rangatahi (young Ma ̄ori) development. As a mutually benefiting partnership document, the Treaty can help in sharing the strengths between the indigenous (Ma ̄ori) understandings and the many non-indigenous (Tauiwi) people.

The Structured Youth Development Programmes – A Review of Evidence (2009) explores the impact of the national youth development strategy:

The evidence reviewed demonstrates that effective youth development programmes can have a positive impact on youth development. As it currently stands, however, the evidence does not appear to live up to the considerable enthusiasm that proponents of the youth development field express for it. When done well, the impact of youth development programmes appears positive but modest.

Regardless of the challenge involved, there is now enough known about best practice in youth development work to make the application of that knowledge in practice a reasonable expectation. At the same time, it is recognised that a gap does exist between best practice and what is practiced currently by some in New Zealand’s youth development sector. This gap, which in some cases may be quite substantial, will take time and effort to close.