New Zealand's child poverty, inadequate housing, incarceration and violence has "shocked" a United Nations committee reviewing the country's human rights record.

Members of a committee overseeing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were last month incredulous at some of New Zealand's worst statistics, chief human rights commissioner David Rutherford said.

Rutherford attended the review in Geneva along with various New Zealand NGOs, as part of a delegation led by Justice Minister Andrew Little.

The committee asked Little about New Zealand's progress on policies and legislation that would ensure the population had access to equal economic, social and cultural rights.


Rutherford said many New Zealanders were familiar with issues like health disparities and domestic violence.

But the statistics "came as a shock" to some of the members of the UN committee, he said.

"It was empowering to observe the incredulity at some of our worst statistics. They were shocked by statistics on child poverty, inadequate housing, the incarceration rate and violence, abuse and bullying, which didn't seem to sit well with our status as a developed nation."

Little said once he had answered some of the questions from the committee on these areas, members were satisfied with the direction the Government was taking on them.

"They give pretty good scrutiny to what's happening in New Zealand in the two sessions I had with them and it was certainly a very constructive dialogue.

"It certainly wasn't gilding the lily at all, it was about acknowledging what we can do better and acknowledging what we are doing well."

The committee also noted that Maori, Pacific, and LGBTI communities had significantly worse health, education and standard of living outcomes.

"Māori and Pasifika New Zealanders are more likely to be affected by preventable conditions and to die prematurely," Rutherford said.


"They are also less likely to be able to access care because of socio-economic barriers."

New Zealanders with an intellectual disability had an average life expectancy several decades lower than other people. Health issues identified by the UN more than a decade ago as "serious abuse" had not yet been addressed.

The committee asked the New Zealand delegation to report back on three areas within 18 months: a housing strategy based on human rights, progress on reducing family violence, and the removal of benefit sanctions.