A business-led work plan is being developed as a direct response to New Zealand's fight against human trafficking, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has revealed.

The plan, which would include practical steps governments and businesses can take to end modern day slavery and human trafficking will be presented at the next Bali Process Ministerial meeting in August.

A series of other actions has also been taken by the Government, which is committing to making tackling human trafficking one of its top priorities.

These include a review of migrant exploitation and the updating of the National Plan of Action to combat human trafficking, forced labour and slavery.


Employment laws were also being changed, Lees-Galloway said, to empower workers to speak through their unions and for better collective organising.

"The New Zealand Government is focusing on what more we can do to eliminate exploitation, human trafficking and slavery, both domestically and regionally," Lees-Galloway said.

"Eliminating the exploitation of migrants is one of my top priorities."

The minister did not rule out the possibility of new laws, such as a Slavery Act like in the UK.

"The prevalence of human trafficking and slavery, both in New Zealand and in our global supply chains is an increasing concern not just for the Government but also for businesses and consumers," Lees-Galloway said.

Icebreaker chairman Rob Fyfe says he was proud to be a New Zealander, but ashamed of New Zealand's track record on human trafficking.

Fyfe, who last month jointly hosted a public-private sector event with Lees-Galloway to discuss the issue, is calling for more leadership from Government and greater leadership from New Zealand businesses.

"It concerns me deeply that New Zealanders have not chosen to take a leadership position in combating human trafficking and modern day slavery," Fyfe said.


"We pride ourselves on having a strong sense of social justice and fairness and have been at the forefront of many social and human rights issues over the years, yet we are far behind other nations within the Asia Pacific region and internationally in enacting legislation and raising awareness of these crimes."

Tackling Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking meeting in Remuera. Businessman Rob Fyfe (left) and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo / Doug Sherring
Tackling Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking meeting in Remuera. Businessman Rob Fyfe (left) and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo / Doug Sherring

Fyfe said the problem was far more invasive than most realised, with many turning a blind eye to where our products came from.

"Few of us really know the working conditions in the factories where our clothes are made, the working conditions on the fishing trawlers that caught the fish we eat or the myriad of other products we consume," he said.

"We readily buy cheaper products and services blissfully naïve as to what level of human exploitation may have been necessary to achieve those cost reductions."

There are estimated to be more than 40 million people trapped as modern slaves and over 150 million children in forced labour.

"I'm a proud New Zealander and I'm proud of the values and social conscience that I believe New Zealanders have," Fyfe said.


"But I'm not proud of our track record in combating this evil."

He urged businesses to have a moral responsibility not to tolerate it and called for legislation to ensure international supply chains of businesses here were free from
modern day slavery, child labour and human trafficking.

"The UK has a Modern Day Slavery Act in place, Australia is well advanced in enacting their Modern Slavery legislation. New Zealand needs to do the same," Fyfe said.

He said better awareness, better industry collaboration across the business community and stronger leadership from Government was needed.

"It's time we held ourselves to account and create a movement to rid the world of this evil of human trafficking and modern day slavery," Fyfe added.

Don Lord, executive director of Hagar New Zealand, which backed a 2016 research called "A Troubling Landscape" on exploitation here, said recommendations made by report authors to the Government included setting up of a one-stop-shop human trafficking office that coordinated efforts across government, community and groups.


The report, undertaken by Dr Christina Stringer, also called for government-commissioned research into human trafficking in New Zealand, and the establishment of induction courses for new migrants.

"I can see that the recommendations are very relevant and in my opinion a clear path towards improving the situation in NZ that seems to be deteriorating," Lord said.

Lees-Galloway said the report was "valuable".

"We will use it to inform our review of migrant exploitation," he said.

"This Government has made the tackling of migrant exploitation one of our top priorities, It is time for New Zealand to show some leadership on this issue."