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 or make an affirmation that you will tell the truth
- you can be charged with certain very serious criminal offences as well as 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 providing reasonable supervision and care to those children)
- 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 there are serious concerns about your welfare then you may be placed under the guardianship of the court and the court may decide where you should live)
- you can get married or enter a civil union with your parents’ consent – your parents will no longer be your guardians once 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 (including treatment for mental disorders, unless you are under a compulsory treatment order)
- you can leave school
- you can 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, Supported Living benefit (visit the Work and Income website 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, unless you're starting out
- you can get an adult passport
- you are allowed to fly a plane solo (if you have been learning to fly)
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at 17 years
- you can join the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force if you have your parents' consent
- 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
- legal guardianship (e.g. by your parents, the court) of you ends
- 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 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 consumer credit contract
- you can place bets at the TAB or a racecourse, or 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 for the next ten years
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 gamble or work in a casino (under this age you can’t enter or 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
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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 (until you are 15 years of age the driver will be responsible for ensuring this, but from 15 years it will be your responsibility to ensure you wear your seatbelt)
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.
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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 may 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 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.
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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. It can be used as a legal form of identification in many other situations where you need to provide evidence of your age or identity.
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 (if you don't have a photo ID),
- a recent letter or bill with your name and address on it (as proof of address),
- someone to fill in the identifier statement on the form (if you don't have an existing photo ID) and
- to pay the application fee (around $35).
It usually takes about two 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 visit the Hospitality NZ (HANZ) website.