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Expectations for conditions and treatment of tāngata whai ora in health and disability places of detention

Peter Boshier
Issue date:

As the Chief Ombudsman, I am designated to examine and monitor the treatment of persons detained in health and disability places of detention.[1] This includes mental health services where people are unable to leave at will. The purpose of my role is preventive, aiming to ensure that safeguards against ill-treatment are in place, and that risks, poor practices, or systemic problems are identified and addressed promptly.

My role also helps to ensure New Zealand adheres to international human rights standards, to which all people are entitled. It also provides assurance that those in the care of mental health services are treated humanely, and that their rights are respected, protected, fulfilled and promoted.

My role is broad and flexible. I examine the conditions and treatment of tāngata whai ora[2] and can make recommendations for improvement where I consider this necessary. I may also identify good practice in the hope that this will promote the highest attainable standard of care for tāngata whai ora throughout New Zealand.

My powers include unrestricted access to places of detention and information about detainees. Central to my examination function, are my visits and inspections of mental health services. My inspectors may visit announced or unannounced and are able to request electronic and physical documentation, observe services and practice, and talk, in private, with tāngata whai ora, their whānau,[3] staff, and with any persons who may be able to provide relevant information.

I am focused in my role as National Preventive Mechanism on the experience of, and outcomes for, tāngata whai ora receiving mental health services where they are unable to leave at will.


This document sets out my six overarching expectations for the conditions and treatment of tāngata whai ora. These are:

  1. The rights of tāngata whai ora are upheld by people, principles, and practices at all levels.
  2. Tāngata whai ora are safe and their independence is promoted.
  3. Tāngata whai ora are treated with dignity and respect.
  4. Tāngata whai ora enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. 
  5. Tāngata whai ora are in an environment that promotes their safety, independence, culture, dignity, and wellbeing.
  6. Tāngata whai ora are supported by skilled, motivated, and engaged people.

[2]    See note on terminology.

[3]    This document refers to whānau rather than family. In Te Ao Māori whānau encompasses family in the fullest meaning. Whānau may include immediate and extended family through whakapapa (genealogy), as well as all persons connected by emotional or spiritual bonds. Any person who has been involved in the care or welfare of a resident may also be considered whānau (kaupapa whānau).

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