What are the legal ages for things like drinking and getting married?
Many activities have legal ages (the minimum age you can legally do something) to try to protect children growing up. Below is a guide describing what you are allowed to do at different ages.
at 5 years
- you can enrol in a state school
at 6 years
- you must start school. If your parents want to teach you at home they must get an exemption from the Ministry of Education
at 10 years
- you can be charged for murder or manslaughter
at 12 years
- if you have to give evidence in Court, you have to take a formal oath
- you can be charged with very serious criminal offences other than murder or manslaughter
at 14 years
- you are now legally a 'young person' (rather than a 'child')
- you can be left at home alone
- you can baby-sit children (if you are capable of reasonable supervision and care)
- you can be prosecuted for any criminal offence
at 16 years
- you can sit a driving test and obtain your learner licence
- you can leave home without consent from your parents (there are exceptions e.g. if you are under guardianship of the court and the court decides you should not live alone)
- you can get married or enter a civil union with your parents’ consent – your parents will no longer be your guardians if you do
- you can decide which parent you want to live with if your parents split up
- you can agree to, or refuse, medical treatment
- you can’t be made to be treated for mental disorders without your consent, unless you are under a compulsory treatment order
- you can leave school and work full-time
- you can be expelled from school
- you can apply for certain benefits, such as the Youth Payment, Young Parent Payment and the Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment Invalid’s Benefit (see this Youth Services page) to check your eligibility
- you can apply for a firearms licence
- you can consent to sexual intercourse. If you are treated for a sexually transmitted disease the doctor does not have to tell your parents
- your parents can’t change your name unless you agree to it
- you can change your name or make a will if you are married or in a civil union
- you’re entitled to the adult minimum wage, if you’re not a new entrant or trainee
Back to top
at 17 years
- you can join the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force
- police can question you without your parents or another adult present (see special rules for Police questioning of under-17 year olds)
- if you are charged with a criminal offence you will appear in the District Court or High Court, not the Youth Court
at 18 years
- your parents are no longer your legal guardians
- you can get married or enter a civil union without your parents’ consent
- you can make a will (though some under-18 year olds can make a will)
- you are no longer entitled to free dental care
- you can buy fireworks, alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco
- you can be employed as a bar person or in a liquor store
- you can join the Police (you need to be at least 18 years old by the time you graduate from Police training)
- you can apply for many types of income support
- you can ask your bank for a cheque account, credit card and a loan
- you are fully bound by any contract you enter into, such as a tenancy agreement or hire purchase
- you can place bets at the TAB or a racecourse and buy Instant Kiwi tickets
- you can vote in national and local authority elections and stand as a candidate
- you can be called in for jury service
- if you are adopted you can prevent Births, Deaths and Marriages from giving your birth parents your contact details
at age 20
- if you are adopted you can apply to Births, Deaths and Marriages for a copy of your birth certificate to find the names of your birth parents
- you can apply to adopt a child who is related to you
- you can work in a casino (under this age you can’t work in areas of the casino where gambling takes place)
at age 25
- you can apply to adopt a child who is at least 20 years younger than you
Back to top
What things don’t have a legal age?
There are some things you have to do regardless of your age.
At any age you must;
- Wear a helmet on a bike
- Wear your seatbelt or be in a child restraint when travelling in a vehicle
At any age you can
At any age you have the right not to be discriminated against because of your sex, religious or ethical beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, political opinion, employment or family status, whether or not you are married.
Back to top
Is there a legal age for getting a tattoo?
A person can legally get a tattoo at any age; however there are some restrictions which apply depending on where you live and which tattoo artist you go to:
- A tattoo artist should give you a consent form to sign before proceeding with the application of a tattoo, and should only proceed if this consent is given:
- In general, if you are less than16 years old, you cannot give consent to have a tattoo done – only your parent or guardian can sign the consent form)
- In some parts of New Zealand, council bylaws raise this age of consent i.e. if you are less than 18 years old your parent or caregiver must sign the consent form.
- Members of the Tattoo Artists Association of New Zealand operate by a code of ethics which says that they won’t tattoo anyone under the age of 18 unless without the consent of their parent or caregiver
- Some tattoo artists have their own rules about whether they will tattoo a person who is younger than a certain age, regardless of whether the parent or guardian gives consent
If you are interested in getting a tattoo it will help you to read this information on the HealthEd website about getting a tattoo done safely.
Back to top
Where do I get an 18+ card?
The Hospitality NZ 18+ card is an Evidence of Age Document which you can use to prove that you are entitled to purchase alcohol.
You can download the application form for the 18+ card online or go to any NZ Post shop to get the form.
To complete the form, you will need:
- a signature from an authorised witness,
- a recent passport photo of yourself,
- one form of primary ID – a passport, or drivers licence or birth certificate,
- a letter or bill with your name and address on it,
- someone to fill in the identifier statement on the form (if required) and
- to pay the application fee (around $20).
It usually takes about three weeks for your card to arrive after you’ve lodged your application. If you have any questions, or you think it's taking too long, you can call 04 381 9937.
For more information go to the Hospitality NZ (HANZ) website.