We get frequent email enquiries from worried parents wondering what the safe legal age is for their child to do certain things in New Zealand.

In response to these requests we created this quick reference list for parents of New Zealand children showing the minimum Legal Age for Activities between ages 5 to 25 years.

If you want to know what the law says about the age you can legally leave children at home alone, check out our article At what age can I leave my children home 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 – if the child is at least 20 years younger.
   20           enter a casino

You may also want to read At what age can I leave my children home alone?. Or for more expert parenting advice check out our Grown ups: Parenting section.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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Lucy R

is it legal to date a 22 yr old at 17

Jarrod Rendle

Hi Lucy, of course it is. There is no law in New Zealand that dictates a legal age for dating. The legal age of consent in New Zealand is 16. But there is no law that relates to dating. — Kiwi Families

TJ Watson-Brewer

what age do you have to be to petsit?

Jarrod Rendle

Hi TJ, there is no legal age limit to Pet-sit in your own home. In fact, dog walking has become a really popular job for kids to take on. The only real requirement for petsitting is to be an animal lover and have enough maturity to know how to feed and take care of a pet. Of course, if you’re pet-sitting in someone else’s home, then the minimum requirements for staying home alone would apply, and an extra level of maturity would be required (as essentially you’re then house-sitting).

TJ Watson-Brewer

can 12 year olds house sit.

Last edited 7 months ago by TJ Watson-Brewer
Jarrod Rendle

No, as the child is aged under 14 years, there would not be reasonable provision for the supervision of that child.

April Cooke

Hi. I would like to support my 13 year old at a doctors appointment and have been advised that she has to go alone. Is that correct?

Jarrod Rendle

Hi April. There is definitely some grey in this area. Parents of minors (under the age of 16) can request their children’s medical records under the Health Act. But doctors can refuse that request under the Privacy Act. Anyone over the age of 16 can give their consent to have, or refuse to have, medical treatment. But there’s no rule for minors, in many cases parents would provide that consent for their children. But not all cases. I’m not sure in your situation who it is that advised your daughter has to go alone to a doctor’s appointment? But if… Read more »

danney

Hi My Daughter wants to move out as she is 18, in case if something happens (police case/illegal involvmetn). does the parents to be convicted
?
i
Secondly does that affect on the residency as we are still not permentant resident

Jarrod Rendle

Hi Danney. You are legally responsible for your child until they turn 18. Once they turn 18 years old, you’re no longer legally responsible for their actions. Regarding your residency status, I can’t see as how an 18 year old child moving out of home would impact that. But you should get more advice from http://www.immigration.govt.nz as every visa is different, and has it’s own criteria. — Jarrod

Bob

My son joined the Gym by himself when he was 16 years old and working.
I assume he signed a contract of some sort because today we the caregivers received a notice from a debt collection agency asking for us to cough up $200+$50(their fees) to get it sorted.

We never authorized this contract.

Is our son liable for this bill or is there some process we can go through to get it thrown out? Being as he is a minor?

Jarrod Rendle

Hi Bob Unfortunately this is an all-too-common issue. Just to be accurate here, your 16 year old son can enter into a contract with the gym. However, the contract itself is probably unenforceable (eg your son can’t be forced via the courts to pay up). I’m unsure why the debt collector is chasing you for the debt. That would assume some sort of consent on your part, and that you’ve guaranteed the ongoing gym payments in same way. If that is all news to you, then you should not pay the costs here. You might consider writing back to the… Read more »

Clint

I just have a question why is it that kids in nz are made to be adults at such a young age of 16. The kids can do most things like have sex move out leave school work part time. It’s like they are pushed to being adults so quick an at a young age. Can their brains even handle such things in life. Kids should stay kids as long as possible not be forced into being a adult at such a young age. Wow this amazes me. Kids wanting to have sex at 16 why go to school get… Read more »

Jarrod Rendle

Thanks for your thoughts Clint, some really interesting points. Aotearoa-New Zealand is, and always has been, a fairly liberal country. We’re also very pro-choice at Kiwi Families. So we believe NZ strikes a fairly good balance between letting people choose how to live their lives, and providing boundaries to keep people safe and to know what is and isn’t OK. Some people think 16 year olds should vote, others think 21 should be the minimum drinking age. 16 has been the age of consent for sex in NZ for a very long time. Lot’s of kids wait longer than that,… Read more »

Melissa

My 17 year old son is friends with a 29 year old male. I do not want them together an to be friends. Why would a 29 year old want to be friends with a 17 year old is there anything I can do I feel his a bad influence over my son and since my son is friends with him my son is disrespectful does not come home does as he wishes in my home. Advice please

Jarrod Rendle

Unfortunately you can’t choose your son’s friends for them, you can only continue to guide them and provide guidance, and also make it clear still what’s OK and not OK behaviour in your home. You seem like a really caring parent, so I’m sure you’ve provided your son with lots of good life lessons already. Now you need to allow them space to learn some of their own lessons, and be there for them and supportive and encouraging, to keep them on the positive. Best of luck — Kiwi Families

Jess W

Hey Im a girl and I want my girlfriend to move in with me when I turn 16. She is also currently 16. Do I need her parents to consent to this or can she just come and stay with me whenever she likes?

Jarrod Rendle

16 is the age of consent for sex. However 18 is the age of independence from a guardian. Your girlfriend’s parents should absolutely have a say in where their daughter lives. And many parents would agree that 16 is too young to move out of home. I think if this relationship is really important to you, then having a good relationship with you partner’s parents should be important to you too. My advice would be to focus on building some connection there, allow your relationship with your girlfriend and their parents to grow, and revisit the living arrangement question in… Read more »

Joseph Parker

Hi, Can parents kick you out of the house at age 17?

Jarrod Rendle

You are legally dependent on your parents until you’re 18. Technically speaking you can’t enter an enforceable contract at the age of 17, so finding a place to rent could be very difficult. So it would be very unfair, but not illegal. If you don’t think you’re ready to leave home yet, work on an arrangement with your parents, perhaps get a part time job and start paying some board, etc. See if you can all come to an arrangement that gives you time to start planning on the next steps. Good luck — Jarrod

*URGENT*

Hi,
Since i’m 16 I can legally move out, I want to move to Auckland I have enough money to rent. Am I able to rent and can I enrol myself into a state school without my parents?

Jarrod Rendle

Hi back. You can legally move out at the age of 16, correct. However, you’ll find out straight away that it will be tough to enter into contracts, so to rent a room, if you need medical or dental treatment, buying a car, etc. You will be able to enrol in school, but again you’ll find it difficult and most schools will want your parents signature. But if you can pay your own school fees, it’s possible. Make sure you have identification like your birth certificate with you. If you need accommodation, there are also providers you can talk to.… Read more »

tara

can i move out of home and buy an apartment to live in at 16

Jarrod Rendle

You can move out of home, yes. But you will find it very difficult to purchase a property in New Zealand at the age of 16, as you’ll need your parents consent to enter the contract.

anon

I am 16 trying to move into my boyfriend’s (he is also 16) place, my parents will not allow me and have threatened stuff (harm to my bf etc) can I just pack up and leave randomly one night?

Jarrod Rendle

As replied previously, you can legally move out at the age of 16. However, you’ll find out that it will be tough to enter into contracts, so to sign rental agreements, or insurance contracts, if you need medical or dental treatment, buying a car, etc. If you do make this decision, do everything you can not to burn any bridges with your family. Everyone doesn’t have to agree with the decision, but everyone has the right to understand why it’s happening, and to be there to support you if things don’t go they way you hope! Also, you need to… Read more »

Kate adams

Hi, can I charge my 17 year old board if he is working full time? Can I also tell him to move out at 17? He has a terrible attitude and verbally abusive

Jarrod Rendle

You absolutely have the right to charge your working children board. You also have the right to set the rules and expectations in your own home, and the right to ask them to leave if they’re being abusive, as that’s not OK. Just note that you are ‘legally’ still responsible for your child until they turn 18, so they’re still going to need your help. Your job from here is to work through these changes very carefully, with lots of communication. Put things in writing, take the time to have a few ‘meetings’ to go over the groundrules and expectations.… Read more »

clare walmsley

hi what is the legal age in nz to vape?

Jarrod Rendle

Hi Clare, great question, we’ll get this added to the list. In New Zealand it’s illegal for any retailer to sell vaping products to anyone under the age of 18. This is part of the government’s plan to reduce smoking to 5% of the population by 2025. You can find out more on the health.govt.nz site here: https://tinyurl.com/ccxn973z — Jarrod

Josh

So, I’m 16. My parents are divorced and have been since I was 7-8. Getting right to it I’ve been having issues with my dad lately when I stay at his (Him humiliating me in front of his side of the family etc and making me feel as if everything I feel is invalid) I told my mom about me not wanting to go back to his for the next couple of weeks as I don’t want the same thing happening (which will if I come back). With this where my dad lives I don’t have any friends to go… Read more »

Jarrod Rendle

Of course you do. In fact, your voice is the most important of all in this situation! You need to have a living situation that is safe and free from abuse, and a family court mediator can certainly intervene if you’re unable to work through this on your own. — Kiwi Families

Hannah Graham

would I be able to move out with a friend at the ages of 16 and 17 and rent and live in a house togther??

Jarrod Rendle

Hi Hannah, see our previous responses relating to this question. The answer is yes, but you will find it very difficult, if not even impossible to sign a rental agreement at the age of 16. — Kiwi Families

Ally

My 17 daughter has been given the opportunity to go to Rarotonga which I have agreed to but her father does not give his permission. At what age can she legally leave the country without parental permission?

Tyler

hey Jarrod! I can’t find any laws that specifically cover this, but as a 14 year old, am i allowed to stay at my 16 year old girlfriends house with parental permission?

Kayden-Dorian

I’m very ahead in the curriculum and plan to move abroad to Italy for university at 17. My parents are ok with this, but I’m not certain of the legal processes I’ll have to go through. I am skipping most of NCEA LVL1, and will have fulfilled all of the university requirements by 17, although I will need to apply at 16.
Will I need to be emancipated or are there any other processes I will need to go through?

Jude

My son’s father (separated) wants to use his bank account so he can regularly deposit funds for him. Great! Except my son tends to spend all money he receives very quickly on food (supermarket, school tuck shop ..) with an occasional device related item from the Saturday job he has had for the last 6 months. He has big aspirations of buying large ticket items (computer related and dreamed of vehicles) but struggles to do this. I have taught him saving strategies when 9+ which worked when I managed his behaviour ( taking him to the bank to put into… Read more »

latoya

how old can u leave home (like to rent a house or live some where else bc I want to live in nelson but idk if im allowed to stay at the camper van place bec of my age, up in richmond (Richmond Holiday Park) if that makes sence ?

Atlas

What is the minimum age to rent a house

Jarrod Rendle

Hi there, a great question. If the landlord is using the standard form Tenancy Agreement (which they should do), then there’s a special clause in there: This contract may not be enforceable against a tenant under the age of 18 (a minor). The Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017 may apply. So technically they could sign up a minor, but the landlord would be taking on a huge amount of risk if they did. Check out the Tenancy Services site for more details: https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/ — Jarrod

Kohai

My girlfriend is turning 16 soon and is planning to stay with me and escape her abusive family. It says she can legally move without parental consent but what if her mum tries to lie to oranga tamariki and try to steal her back. I’m worried because my girlfriend’s family all lied about the abuse and when questioned by the police, I really need advice please.

Jarrod Rendle

Yes, that’s quite correct. Once your partner turns 16 she can legally leave home, although her parents are legally responsible for her up until the age of 18. Best of luck, family is the most important thing. — Jarrod

Karl

Is an immature 8yr old child allowed to go to the park alone for hours at a time when the parents can’t see and don’t know who he’s with

Jarrod Rendle

Hi there, you want to take a look at our article on leaving children alone here: https://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/articles/at-what-age-can-i-leave-my-child-alone/ — Jarrod

Darjee Sahala

At what age can children be left at the park, library, or beaches for some amount of time? I seem to see this done a fair bit.

Jarrod Rendle
Diana

What age can a child travel. On a bus alone?

Avery

hi, im 15 and my home life isnt that good, my mum has decided to pull me out of school and refuse i have any further education in a real school, i decided if it ever became unbearble i would run away and stay with a friend of mine after i turn 16, would i be able to enroll in a school with my friends parent as my caregiver or would i need permission from my parents to enroll even though im a runaway?

lorena

Hi i am wondering what i can do about my 14 year old girl she wont come home and is out partying with her friends and yells and swears at me when i try to stop her. what can i do legally to stop her leaving home it is so unsafe out there.

Jim

Hi My daughter is 13 and she wants to help me out in my business by working with me(say 10-12 hrs a week).
is it legally allowed that she can work with me and if yes how much I will have to pay her.
Thanks in advance

Helayna Horne

hi, my name is Helayna i am 14 years old but i really really want to do a nzma early childhood course, is there a certain age that i have to be or?

Peter

Hi I’m 16 I was wondering if I get a job are my parents allowed to force me to quit or are they allowed to email the company to see if they won’t hire me

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter
Jamie Barrot

Is it illegal to leave your house at 14 and go live with some friends and look after yourself

Holly Payne

Hi, I’m 15 and i wanted to leave home at 16. I have a place to stay with a friend but that would require me to move from new zealand to Australia. Is it legal for me to move there at 16 without parents consent?

Toby

Hi, I was just wondering what legal stance I have with my parents on the possession of my car. I am 17 years old and have recently bought a car, I hold a restricted driving license. I paid for this car in full with money I have earnt independently and it is legally regeristed under my name. Recently I took passengers in said car which goes against the parameters of my license and was pulled over by the police. I was given the punishment for breaking this law. This was 35 demerits and an $100 fine, I paid this in… Read more »

Jordan Cephyr

Can a 16 year old from New Zealand date an 18 year old from America or is that illegal?

Brodie

As a 16 year old am I legally allowed to go out and see friends

Paramjit

Is this ok too have a 6 -7 year old child with a parent while parent is getting the tattoo done.

Lia

And can you also be emancipated in nz

Bailee

i am 17,i was just wondering could i leave school without parents permission (in NZ)

Maia

Hello, so I’m in a debate with one of my friends. If someone is younger than 18, is it completely legal for their parents to open their mail with or without consent?

Debbie Simpson

Hi, just wondering, at what age can a child sleep out in the sleepout? (A room off the carport not connectef to the house) child would still use toilet inside, eat watch TV etc inside. Their bedroom would just be in the sleepout not inside the house.

KF

Hi Debbie
There’s no law, or rule, that governs this as such. As long as the sleep out is warm and dry, and the child is responsible enough to look after the room, it’s up their guardian to decide. Just note, if they’re under 14 they still can’t be left alone at home. — Jarrod

Alucard Valdez

A 17 year old is on the Youth Payment (indicating a breakdown of relationship with parents/guardians). Is he legally independent from his parent/guardian? If not, how does he become emancipated?

Atharva

Ok,
So I am 13 and have visited Australia a couple of times.
My parents and i dont….you know get along that well.
I was planning on leaving my country, India and move to new New Zealand.
I am a sport enthusiast that’s why I had chosen new Zealand and will probably get a job there in the water sport industry or any other low wage job, enough to support myself.
Can you tell me a way to get through and whether I will be allowed

KF

Hi Atharva, we would love to have you. New Zealand has a highly respected sporting sector, including: athletes, coaches, sport medicine, sport psychology and our recent investments into high performance sport. You have a number of options for immigration to New Zealand, although most would not be open to you until you turn 18. Some visa options include the Talent Sports Visa, Student Visa, or a study visa as part of your parent’s visa if they were immigrating too. Check it all out here: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas — Jarrod

Aeron Villejo

can parents force to kick you out when you turn 18?

KF

Hi Aeron, at the age of 18 your parents are no longer legally responsible for you. As it is their home you’re living in, unless you’ve signed a tenancy agreement with them, there’s no legal reason why they can’t ask you to leave. — Jarrod

Jo Wade

I live in Australia and my son lives in NZ with his father. My sons father is not allowing him to visit and I have not been able to see him for two years. My now 14 year old son decided to stay with his father, on the promise from said father that he could come over and visit anytime (holidays and such). Due to having a child in school over here and a partner who does fly in fly out work on an irregular basis I am unable to get over there myself to see him. My son has… Read more »

KF

Hi Jo, you son’s father cannot refuse visitation with him. That said, your son’s idea of ‘one year in Australia, one year in New Zealand’ might not be the best arrangement either, especially with NCEA’s just around the corner. Also remember that ‘visitation’ can be as simple as a regularly scheduled Skype session. If your son is having difficulty raising the visitation issue with his father, and you’re struggling to formalise any sort of agreement, then you all may benefit from mediation services. Just note, if you want to go down the court route, you’ll need to apply to the… Read more »

Kaytlyn Kyle

Hi I’m 16 and in foster care and I want to stay at my boyfriends house for as long as possible …
1. How long can I stay
2. Could I move in
3. Do I need to talk to the police
4. Who would get in trouble if I stayed over the time…

KF

Hi Kaytlyn. Legally speaking at the age of 16 you can move out of home without parental (or guardian) consent. I don’t think this is a case of anyone getting into trouble. This is more a situation where everyone involved needs to get together and discuss this openly and honestly. Here’s a few things to consider. Don’t burn bridges. The people close to you were sent to guide you in this world, and a few short years from now you’ll need their support more than ever. Think carefully about why you want to move out, make a ‘pros and cons’… Read more »

Amy

Is there a legal age for opposite sex half/step siblings to share a room or limit on how many children can share a room? Currently my childrens father and his partner have 4 children in one very small room ages are 3yo, 6yo and 11yo girls and 10yo boy.

Mark Plumpton

Is there a legal reason why 16 and 17yos can’t stay at backpackers? You can leave home but you don’t seem to be able to stay anywhere?

KF

Hi Mark, there’s no legal reason as such. However, accommodation providers can set any policy rules they choose. And they may have a policy in place that anyone aged under 18 requires a parent or guardian to sign the contract. — Jarrod

Elaine Correia

What is the age that someone can become an executor in a will?

Yajaira

I have 16 and I have a kid the thing is that I was living with my boyfriend we had a child and my mom moved away so I had to moved with her so my question is can I moved back with my baby father family or I can’t?

KF

Hi Yajaira, at the age of 16 you can leave home without parental consent. Just be aware that your parents are legally responsible for you until the age of 18. You may find entering certain legal contracts, for instance, are difficult until you turn 18. And there will be a time in the future where you’ll need family support. Just keep that in mind as you make these important decisions for you and your child. — Jarrod

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