Consumer interest groups work to improve the rights and welfare of consumers.
Consumer New Zealand
Perhaps the best-known consumers’ protection agency is Consumer New Zealand, founded in 1959 and formerly known as the New Zealand Consumers’ Institute. Consumer New Zealand is primarily concerned with research into consumer goods and services. Its costs are funded, not by membership fees or sponsorship, but by subscriptions to its various publications, notably Consumer magazine.
Home Owners and Buyers Association of New Zealand (HOBANZ)
HOBANZ was set up in 2006 to provide advice and support to owners of leaky and defective homes. It lobbies for warm, dry, safe and healthy houses. In 2011 it was developing an accreditation programme to give home owners a list of trusted building service providers and raise industry standards.
The fireworks lady
Horrified by the harm fireworks caused to children and animals, Beverley Pentland toured New Zealand campaigning for greater restrictions on their sale and use. Beginning in the 1970s, she visited hundreds of schools and community groups and became known as ‘the fireworks lady’. She died shortly before legislation restricting fireworks sales was passed in 1985.
Some consumer groups are linked with particular industries.
Domestic Energy Users’ Network (DEUN)
DEUN was an umbrella group of community and welfare organisations with common interests in the energy sector. It lobbied for affordable and sustainable energy supplies and a fairer pricing policy. In 2011 it asserted that domestic consumers provided 44% of electricity sector revenue while only using 33% of the supply.
Technology Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ)
Founded as the Telecommunication Users Association of New Zealand in 1995, TUANZ represents both major telecommunications users and small business and residential users. In 2020 it had about 170 members. It has been at the forefront of introducing greater regulation of, and competition in, the telecommunications industry to benefit consumers.
As part of their role as consumer watchdogs, consumer groups speak out on a wide range of social policy issues, including health, education and welfare.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
ASH was started in 1982 by health professionals concerned about the death and disease caused by tobacco. It has successfully lobbied against tobacco sponsorship of sport and smoking in public indoor spaces. ASH’s ultimate aim is to make New Zealand tobacco-free.
A healthy snack?
In lifting the ban on unhealthy food in school tuck shops, Minister of Education Anne Tolley suggested junk food was not always an unhealthy option. ‘For the kid who’s been doing two hours of rugby practice and needs that instant hit of carbohydrates, a pie might not be a bad thing.’1 In a response that highlighted the emotional intensity of the debate, a nutritionist said a pie was in fact low in carbohydrates and one of the worst things to eat after vigorous exercise.
Fight the Obesity Epidemic (FOE)
FOE was founded in 2001 to stop and reverse the steep rise of obesity and type-2 diabetes – of which obesity is the main cause. FOE lobbied for restrictions on the advertising of unhealthy food and promoted tax changes to make healthy food more affordable. In 2008 the Labour-led government banned unhealthy food from school tuck shops. The succeeding National-led government reversed the measure, insisting it was not up to the state to dictate what children ate.
Alcohol Action NZ
Formed in 2009, Alcohol Action’s primary purpose was to disseminate research findings with a view to influencing government policy on unhealthy drinking. Its supporters were encouraged to make donations and lobby government ministers and MPs, including by making written submissions to Parliament’s select committees on the dangers of alcohol abuse.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
CPAG was founded in 1994 to lobby for the right of every New Zealand child to security, food, shelter, education and health care. Members included academics, teachers and community workers. The group conducted research, examined how policies affected children, and made submissions to the government.