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Government agencies are public service departments that are in place to make sure the country runs smoothly.  Find out if the institution you dealt with is a government agency using the list below:

What kinds of things can I complain about?

There isn’t a strict list of things you can or can’t complain about, and it will often be specific to the situation. It’s worth remembering, however, that making a complaint doesn't have to be based on how serious the problem is. Whether you disagree with a decision that Housing New Zealand has made, or an agency simply isn’t responding to you by phone or email, if you feel like you’ve been treated poorly, you have a right to complain.

Where you look for help will depend on what your issue is, though there are options available regardless of your circumstances.

What should I do if I think I’ve been treated unfairly?

If you reckon an agency has treated you unfairly, there are a couple steps you should take to try and sort the situation.

These are:

  1. Make a complaint to the agency directly.
  2. If you’re unhappy with their response, or if you don’t receive one, get in touch with an organisation that can help (such as the Ombudsman).

Even if you’re not sure whether you’ve been treated badly, it’s worth getting in touch with the Ombudsman. This office looks out for the interests of the citizens when dealing with the government. Often, any questions you have can be resolved by a phone call, or by filling out the complaint form on their website.

Keep in mind, if you’re complaining on behalf of someone else, make sure you have their written permission to do so.

Useful links:

Who can I turn to for support?

If speaking directly to the government agency isn’t an option, there are a few bodies and officials out there that can support you with more specific problems. As a start, reach out to:

  • The Ombudsman: The Ombudsman helps the public in its dealings with government agencies. It is independent of the Government, answering instead to Parliament, and can aid with issues ranging from whistleblowing to an agency ignoring your calls. The Ombudsman can’t make legally binding decisions, but it's fast, free, effective and covers a wide range of issues. The Chief Ombudsman is a person, who is supported by the Office of the Ombudsman.
  • The courts: Taking your complaint to the courts, in what is called a judicial review, is costly and slower than going to Ombudsman. They're able to make legally binding decisions, however, and can be a better option if the agency has broken the law.

Occasionally, another organisation might be recommended to you depending on your complaint, such as the Health & Disability Commissioner. If your issue is with a government agency and you’re looking for some initial advice however, the Ombudsman is your best bet to get things rolling.

Useful links:

Key websites

  • Community Law: The Community Law website is the official home of the Community Law Centres across Aotearoa New Zealand, which aim to provide free legal help to people throughout the country.
  • The Ombudsman: Set up in 1962, the Ombudsman helps the public in its dealings with government agencies. 
  • YouthLaw Aotearoa: YouthLaw Aotearoa is a community law centre which provides free legal help to children and young people under 25. Their website contains useful information in relation to your rights.