Modern slavery involving worker exploitation, debt and dodgy marriage offers is likely to increase as the country opens up, a community leader says.
The Government this morning announced an anti-slavery initiative and financial adviser Dr Pushpa Wood said the new proposals should help expose abuse.
Wood, Massey University Financial Education and Research Centre director, said migrants had for decades been exploited in sectors including hospitality and the sex business.
Others ended up being bound to exploiters who promised marriage in exchange for permanent residency.
Wood said some workers from Asia signed sketchy contracts or took out loans, then found themselves paying up to 70 per cent of their income back to employers.
Others were forced into inhumane working hours or conditions and made to live in cramped conditions with other migrant abuse victims.
"Because people coming from Asia are so used to working long hours, they don't necessarily notice exploitation, especially at the early stages," Wood said.
Others were duped with romantic chicanery or promises of getting permanent residency, and freedom, after agreeing to marry somebody in New Zealand.
"You're bringing a bride or a groom from the country with an understanding that after two years or three years - God only knows what green pastures they're showing - they can be independent."
The Government's pandemic response largely shut down international borders for two years but Wood said with borders reopening, modern slavery was likely to increase.
"I would say we will see the peak first before we actually get it under control."
The Government said it would clamp down on types of modern slavery including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking.
Organisations could be forced to take action if they become aware of modern slavery or worker exploitation.
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said he was working with advisers including former Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe on the initiative.
Consultation on the proposals opened today and submissions can be made on MBIE's website until June 7, 2022.
Wood said many of New Zealand's trading partners already had modern slavery laws.
"New Zealand now needs to join others showing global leadership on these important issues," he added.
World Vision said it worked with Trade Aid for a year on the campaign to address modern slavery.
World Vision NZ national director Grant Bayldon said the new legislation sought to achieve freedom, fairness and dignity in business operations and supply chains.
"It means we are one step closer to seeing real legal change which has the potential to improve the lives of millions living in modern slavery."