New Zealand's human rights record - including the high rate of family violence and a disparity in health outcomes for Maori versus non-Maori - will come under scrutiny from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Justice Minister Andrew Little will lead a delegation to New Zealand's universal periodic review at the council, which will take place on January 21.

"Generally speaking, our human rights record is a good one," Little told the Herald.

"It's important for New Zealand and for its reputation around the world that we maintain that reputation and continue to do the right thing.


"We're not perfect. We won't be perfect. But we should continue to strive to do the best we can."

The council will consider a national report on New Zealand's record, a compilation of UN information, and a report from civil society institutions such as the NZ Law Society, the Chief Ombudsman and Amnesty International.

The national report for the council's session notes that 12 per cent of New Zealanders are directly affected by family violence every year, and Little expected to be questioned about the Government's response.

"The rate of family violence is still extraordinarily high. That's one that sticks out for New Zealand, which is regarded as this peaceful, pleasant place to come to."

The national report also notes disparities in health outcomes for Maori compared with non-Maori, and that while Maori are about 15 per cent of the population, they make up half the prison population, 27 per cent of those using mental health services, but only 10 per cent of police and 11 per cent of the judiciary.

Other concerns included the cost and quality of housing, bullying in schools, the need for improved mental health services, resources for disabled people, and the recent estimates of between 135,000 and 210,000 children living in poverty.

In his address to the council, Little said he would discuss the Government's child poverty reduction law, plans for criminal justice reform, the Government's wellbeing Budget, settling Treaty of Waitangi claims, and the Government's response to the mental health inquiry, which is due in March.

The compilation of UN information notes that the Bill of Rights Act "lacked supremacy over other statutes" and that legislation adversely affecting human rights were still in force.


The Supreme Court recently ruled that the law banning prisoners from voting was inconsistent with the BORA.

Little has said that the Government would bring in law changes that would compel Parliament to reconsider laws in the face of such declarations, but added that revisiting the law on prisoner voting was not a Government priority.

Little will address the council for 25 minutes, and then respond to questions for two and a half hours.

The universal periodic review considers New Zealand's human rights records over the last five years.

The findings of the review are not legally binding, but are sometimes cited as persuasive in the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal.

New Zealand was last reviewed in 2014, when the Government accepted 121 of the UN's 155 recommendations.

Progress on the recommendations is monitored by the Human Rights Commission.