Legal age guidelines

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We get frequent email enquiries from worried New Zealand parents wondering what the safe legal age is for their child to do a certain activity.  In response to these requests we have created a quick reference list for parents of NZ children regarding minimum Legal Age for Activities between age 5 to 25 years. You can also read more on this topic in our article about the age that you can leave children alone.

 Ages         Activities
   5            starting school (earliest age)
   6            starting school (latest age)
   7            starting school (latest age if the child must walk more than 3 km to school)
¬†¬† 14¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† babysitting — a babysitter’s minimum age
   14          leaving a child alone in your house
¬†¬† 16¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† getting a learner’s driving licence
   16          leaving school (earliest age)
   16          living with a partner
   16          to leave home without parental consent
   16          age of consent for sex
   16          deciding on which parent to live with (if separated)
   16          parental consent is required for medical/dental treatment
   16          starting full time work
   16          getting a tattoo
¬†¬† 16¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† getting married or having a civil union (with parents’ consent)
   17          getting a full driving licence
   17          joining the Navy, Army, Airforce without parental consent
¬†¬† 18¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† getting married or having a civil union (without parents’ consent)
   17          buy a Daily Keno ticket
   18          buy a Lotto ticket
¬†¬† 18¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† can be legally independent of their parents’ guardianship
   18          enter into contracts
   18          buying alcohol
   18          drinking alcohol
   18           buying cigarettes
   18           buying firecrackers
   18           opening a cheque account, applying for credit card
   18           borrowing money
   18           joining the Police Force
   18           electoral voting
   18           making a Will
   19           the right to free education ends
   20           if adopted applying to Births Death and Marriages for a copy of the birth  certificate (to find out birth parents)
   20           adopting a child if they are related.
   25           adopting a child Рif the child is at least 20 years younger.
   20           enter a casino



The Kiwi Families Team

This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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  • Godzone?Whatever.

    So in this country you can leave home, without parental consent, when aged 16, but parents remain legal guardians (with all responsibility) for a further two years until the child’s eighteenth birthday … ridiculous and pathetic.

    • sajdlkjsad

      isn’t it so in most countries though? that you can leave home, however, until 18 years of age, your parents are still responsible, unless you get emancipated?

  • wendy

    legal age for child deciding which parent to live with

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Wendy,

      A child can decide this for themselves at 16.



  • teenmum

    why do parents have to except this? i think 16 is not old enough to get up one day and say..oh yes im 16 i am moving out!!im not sure how other parents feel,but im not happy with that!! mine started playing up knowing that we cant do a thing..and as a mother i am very upset with the goverment for lack of parent support..Cant buy smokes,cant go to the bottlestore,cant buy a lotto, but oh i can move out and have sex they r still babys at 16!

    • Curious Nigga

      Although it is hard seeing your child grow up, it is important to know that they no longer are little children and that they are matured young adults.

      • Marquis

        At 16? You must still be young because on reflection, 16 year olds are not mature, despite them wanting to think they are. Still a lot of life learning to do.

        • john

          At sixteen they can rob and steal and be violent yet the police cant do anything the laws is a joke they can get away with anything theses days

      • lovin’MUM

        My daughter is doing this to and i have found out that she is going to move out to live with her boyfriend when she turns 16. What makes them mature, because you have said they are. We all can agree that maturity comes with living and if you do the math they have only being doing things for themselves from the age of 14 when we had confidences enough in them to leave them alone for the night. So this tells me that it takes 2 years to become a mature adult. What total and utter nonsense, for a caring parent we haven’t a foot to stand on to keep them safe according to our laws.

  • still confused

    At what age can they walk to school or the dairy alone, legally? Or go downtown with their mates but no adult?

  • atanui

    my partner kicked my youngest daughter 16 out of home . She was living with her boyfriend for a few months until my partner wanted her back , but she did not want to come back home . My partner went to police because she would not come back home . Then his other idea was to send her to a foster home . Which made it even worse because I at the time agreed with foster home . Since that did not work out because she never turned up to the meeting we had sent her to Australia and she has been there for a year . She is still with her boyfriend . I don’t know if I made the right choices .

    • Leelee

      Your partner is a doosh and shouldnt be making decisions for YOUR child if he is not the father. Based on you letting him do that, i cant really blame her for leaving.

  • andy

    Hi the lotto nz web site says there is no age limit for playing lotto ,Keno or bullseye but 18 yrs to buy Instant Kiwi.

  • June

    How old can you stay in hotel with a friend?

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi June, It can depend on the hotel. Some places require you to be over 18 to stay there without a parent or guardian.



  • Elena

    Hi, so just to be sure, a 16year old can move out of home without parents consent?? E.g If I was 16, I could move in with my boyfriend and my mum couldn’t stop me?

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Elena,

      At age 16 a young person can leave home without their parents’ consent. But until 17, Child, Youth and Family can send the child home if they believe they’re at risk. Don’t forget that you also need to be able to support yourself and will not be eligible for a benefit.

      • Elena

        But what if I’ve been already been seen by Child Youth and Family before and they’ve seen what my mum is like? And they know what she has done to us in the past? Theoretically.. Can they send you back home then? Even though your in a safer environment?

        • Rochelle Gribble

          Hi Elena,

          It’s really impossible for me to say what CYF might do in any particular situation. If you have a case worker, it would be best to talk to them. Good luck!


      • Jo-Anne Clark

        the child won’t be eligible for a benefit until they turn 18, and CYFS send children out of family care homes when they turn 17… it kinda defeats the purpose of care and protection if they are sending them away with no way of supporting themselves doesn’t it

  • tonz

    I know the age for baby sitting is 14 but how long could you leave them alone in the house with younger siblings. And if you was too leave them over night known that your oldest son is capable are cops able to take your children away if something was to go wrong during the night.

  • Liminoid

    There is no age restriction on purchasing a Lotto ticket and the age for leaving a child at home alone is an insurance industry recommendation, not a ‘legal age’‚Ķ cheers

  • 2nd time

    So a child can babysit all of a sudden even though they have only just legally reached the age at which they can be left unattended??
    Unbelievable. They are free to wander the streets at 12 but not to stay at home safe and sound?

    • 2nd time

      Two years later that can move out!!?! Anyone else think that’s a little crazy?

  • Richard

    Hi, the 12 point is incorrect. (parental consent needed for medical/dental treatment). At 16 you can make all of your own health decisions. You have the right to refuse treatment from medical professionals independently. If you are under 16 your parents make those decisions on your behalf.
    I work in the medical field.

    • Rico

      You’re partly right. At 16 you can consent to/decline treatment regardless of your parent’s wishes. Parents will usually be involved in decisions before a child turns 16, but there is a sliding scale of competence – medical professionals are supposed to allow a child to make their own decisions if they are deemed competent to. (This right is protected under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is part of what is called the ‘Gillick’ test of competence).

      • Jo-Anne Clark

        girls as young as 13 are being taken by school counsellors to have abortions and be put on the pill without any parental consent in New Zealand. I feel this is a joke when a child up until the age of 16 can’t even have minor surgery without a parents ok yet a thing as major as an abortion is seen as not requiring a parents knowledge O.o

  • Rose

    Hi just wondering about when collecting/picking up a preschooler/toddler from daycare – what age should a child be?

  • jade

    can you leave home before 16 with parental permission

  • Annie

    so child cannot buy property if under 18 even though has enough money for a deposit. Can child sign contract together with parent, ie joint names for the house purchase?

    • Yep You Can

      Any person has the right to buy land, and yes they can sign a contract together with a parent or guardian.

  • Anon

    16 and can move out. I know parents that got legally emancipated and were going to bars at 14. My parents have some fucked stories. And what if home is not the safest place for them?

  • Katy

    Leaving home at 16
    can my father stop me?

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Katy, Your parents still have a legal responsibility for you until you are 18 but there is some grey area around this. If you want some more advice on this, you could try the Office of the Commissioner of Children: Good luck, Rochelle

  • PJ

    hi. just a quick question. at what age can an older sibling (19yo) become the legal guardian of a younger sibling (7yo) if something has happened to their parents. so does the older sibling get the child first if able to care for the child.

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi PJ,

      It’s not really possible to say as it depends on a number of factors. For example, if the parents have died, it may depend on their will. If you’ve got questions, you could try contacting your local community or family law centre. Good luck! Rochelle

  • Sam

    HEY I was wondering how old you have to be to start flatting????

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Sam, there’s no age as such but you do need to be 16 to leave home without parental consent

  • anonymous

    how old do you have to be to have an eftpos????????

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi there, this varies from bank to bank but is usually 12 or 13.

  • iesha3135

    Hi, i just wanted to know if i can move out and stay with my boyfriend…I’m 16. And his family are really nice and said I’m allowed…my parents are always shouting at me everyday and I’ve got depression and they don’t help at all. They are jw’s so they have very strong beliefs…they’ve never let me celebrate anything and its awful living in the same house as them all I feel I do is cry…but my boyfriend and is family are really nice and said they would look after me..

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi iesha,

      Sorry to hear that you’re having a tough time. At 16, you are legally entitled to leave home; however, your parents are legally responsible for you until you are 18 and you need to have a plan about how you are going to support yourself. Good luck – I hope things get easier.

  • kingkapisi

    so im 16 and i can get a tattoo without my parents consent?

  • Judy

    Could a child aged 17 travel to Australia for a week or two with out parental consent?? (Staying with friends over the age of 18)

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Judy, there are a few factors involved in this but if they have the money and a passport then it may be difficult to stop them.

  • lala

    This may not be related to any of this but what are the laws surrounding child bedroom requirements and what age are children allowed to sleep in sleepouts or cabins unnacompanied if right next to parents outside room?

  • Kylie Hickey

    What to do if you find out a 14 year old has been left home alone for a number of nights while the caregiver is out of town – and none of the family knew about it?

  • Lani

    Hi, I am 17 and my partner and I are looking for a hotel, he’s 18. Would I be able to go and stay with him even though I’m not 18?

  • Hazel

    Can I move overseas eg Australia without parental consent at 16?

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Hazel, You’re legally under your parents guardianship until you are 18 – so probably not.

  • Ashleigh

    Tattoo at 16?

  • Rikelle

    How do I emancipate myself from my mother? I’m 14 years old and I want to live with my nan

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Rikelle, A good starting place would be to talk to your guidance counsellor at school. Good luck!

  • Karen Harkness

    Hi, We (Father, Stepmother) have a just turned 14 year old which we share custody of with her mother a week on a week off. This has worked well and never had a problem. She has decided though that she wants to live with her mum as her ‘base’ which has devestated us. Is it true that she can’t make that decision until she is 16, and therefore the status quo should remain until then?

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Karen, Sounds like you’re in a tough situation! The decision-making depends upon the legal status of her custody. If you have a parenting order in place, then this requires changing in order to change this. It’s worth mentioning, however, that your step-daughter’s wishes are a really important part of this. I’ve know children who find it quite unsettling to be constantly moving between houses and it’s worth having a conversation with your step-daughter to hear a bit more about what she is thinking. Good luck with this!

  • zak

    So at 16 you’re legally aloud to get a tattoo without parent consent. I’m in napier at the moment so does that still apply

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Zak, Often tattoo artists will want your parent’s permission if you’re under 18 – but it’s up to the individual person.

  • Joann Sumner

    what is the legal age of a child to decide to live with it biological parent if not adopted but living with family members

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Joann – that would depend on whose legal custody the child is in. If they are legally in their parents’ custody, then there is no legal age. If they are not in the legal custody of their parents then a custody order would need to be obtained if they are under 18.

  • Karen Bayne

    Hi, just wondering what age is legal to send kids down to the dairy or walk the dog around the block by themselves (no adult)?

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Karen, Have a look at this article – it (sort of!) answers your question :)

  • Tia

    What is the legal age that you can move back to the country you were born in?
    And if your underage can you move back with another family member?

  • Robyn Champion

    Hi, Major problem. My 16yr old son looked up on the internet, found out he can move out at 16 without consent. He has a good home/family life, still wants to stay at school, but will not do simple things like tidy his room, make his bed, put his washing out, do dishes that his chores. We run him everywhere, give him money when he wants it. On special occasions we let him have a couple of 2% beers, let him go to the occasion party (we like to pick him up and drop him off though) He is not allowed spirits, drugs, smoke. We like to know where he is, if he has a girlfriend and her parents agree, she can come and stay. He has got it in his head that by law he can move out at 16. He wont say why. He believes he does not have to tell us where he would be living. He has no idea how he will be able to support himself financial. We earn too much money for him to get a benefit. He can go flatting apparently but can’t sign a tenancy agreement until 18, which means he would be flatting with much older kids. If he goes to a friends house, he will have to pay board, where does that money come from? I can understand kids move out of abusive, violent homes etc, and having a few rights, But not a kid from a good home, with support. We have been taking him to counselling, but he google when can he move out. All that comes up is. You can move out at the age of 16 without parents consent. Nothing about financially supporting yourself, or being in a safe place, or letting your parents know where you are.

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Robyn, Sounds like you are having a tough time with your son. Unfortunately, I can’t offer a great deal of advice; except to say that you are correct in that if he moves out, he will need to support himself. Perhaps experiencing the reality of this will help him to clarify what he wants. Have you considered going to counselling together? I hope you are able to work through this with your son. Kind regards,

  • Micheal

    So wait, how would you be able to leave home at 15 to live with a friend and their family when you know it’s in your best interest and the friends family agree to let you move in but you 15 ?

  • Teen drinking grinch

    Hi. My only just 16 year old son is desperate to start drinking at parties. He has been to two so far and hasn’t drunk (supervising adults confirm this…and I trust he is telling the truth). Trouble is, he’s desperate to start which is ringing alarm bells. He is a good kid and for the most part makes good decisions. I just still think he’s too young to drink. Why doesn’t anybody want to challenge our teen drinking culture??? The two parties he has been to, literally hundreds of teenagers have all been drinking. It makes me sad.

  • Lana

    Is there any law regarding step children of the opposite seed sharing a bedroom?

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Lana – no law :)

      • Teresa

        Hi Rochelle, so say two sisters and a step brother share a room no one from CYFs will come knocking and say the law has been broken?…. I have heard so many conflicting things, can you please give me a few links so I can do my own investigating? Many thanks :)

        • Rochelle Gribble

          Hi Teresa,

          I’ve asked a couple of lawyers and they’re all in agreement that no law exists about this. It’s tricky to point you to links, as our law isn’t written to cover everything that people could ever do or not do. If you’re concerned about CYFs, the best thing to do is give them a call and get their input. Kind regards, Rochelle

  • ThatJinxedYuki

    When is the legal age to be able to leave the country and Migrate there without parents consent?

  • Jo-Anne Clark

    so let me get this straight, legally a child up until the age of 16 has to get parental consent for a medical procedure, yet schools are taking girls as young as 13 to have abortions or even to go on the contraceptive pill without getting any parental consent… and this is encouraged because it is a girl’s right to decide about her own body… how can this be right if they are supposed to need parental consent for medical procedures??

  • Annuska

    Is there a law in regards to boys and girls sharing rooms? We have 3 kids here.1yr old girl, 4yr old boy and 9yr old this stage the girls share but to be honest id prefer the 9 n 4 yr old to share (half brother and sister) as baby still doesnt sleep through night an 9yr old very hard to get out of bed in morning so baby is always woken up because if this.wouldnt be able to put 4 yr old in with 1 yr old as he would be 2 noisy

    • Rochelle Gribble

      Hi Annuska – no laws at all :) Good luck!

  • paul morris

    Hi what age is a youth aloud to be released from cyfs care? My friends son has left his care givers he made the choice to leave due to abuse going on in the household since the incident he has been pleading with his mum to help him come home to her she has been on the phone to cyfs trying to get him back he has had thoughts of suicide because he no one is listening to his needs and wants he is very close to his mother and all he wants is to go home, she is a mess as she doesnt know what to do she is torn between her son and doing what is right by cyfs, cyfs have had the young man assessed by mental health and he is clinically depressed this could be all sorted by releasing him back to his mother, but as usually they are not listening to the young mans needs or wants, when will they listen to his needs? When hes 6 feet under, he is 16 years old and wants to go home to his mum at this moment she is tempted to bring him home, please can u shed sone light on this situation

  • Amelie

    hi, so I’m an orphan and have been looked after by my older sister since about 2. Im now 17 and not happy with the way she treats me (physically and mentallly) and i was looking to change her guardianship to someone else so i can live with them and they get the unsupported childs benefit. how would i go about doing this?

  • Kylie Fowler

    No age limit on buying lotto or keno or big wednesday etc. Need a guardian to claim a prize over $1000 though. Only an age limit on scratchies

  • Caitlyn

    I’m 15. My situation at home isn’t good, being abused, also having depression makes it worse. I really want to leave home asap but I can’t support myself financially, I have a friend in Wellington that could help out but he lives up there and I live down here in Nelson. What do I do? Please help.

    • Zeeva117

      Hi, because you’re 15 not 16 you can’t legally leave your parents’ house to go do your own thing just yet. But as you’re being abused you can leave and go into foster care like I did. When you’re 16-17 though you can get what’s called the Youth Payment. It’s financial support for teenagers who have good, sensible reasons to not live with their parents. Also, you could get help for costs of counselling, which is a big help for a lot of people, and I’d really recommend you look into it. I hope this info helps and that you can get out of your situation at home real fast :) Goodluck.

  • Ash

    Okay , just to say that if you’re about to turn 18 in just a few weeks , you still have to full be 18 in order to be in a civil union with your parents permission ? This is ridiculous .. Like , you’re 18 in less than a month but don’t have this right and when your 18, you’re suddenly in charge of your entire lives decision ..

    • Rochelle Gribble

      But still the case, none-the-less!

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