Am I old enough yet?

“Not until you’re older.” It’s a commonly used parenting phrase which is predominantly used to dissuade over-ambitious toddlers from wanting to pump petrol into the family car or riding their bike to grandma’s in the next town.

But do you know what the legal age is for kids and youth to do certain things, like babysitting, leaving school, or getting a job? While the examples below are the legal ages, remember to take into consideration the individual child’s level of understanding and abilities, as well as your own preferences and family values when deciding what is the ‘right age’ for your child when it comes to those that require a level of responsibility.


Kids usually start school in New Zealand at age five. However, if the school has a cohort entry (that is where a group of children start together, ie at the beginning of the term), they may be able to start earlier. There is no legal obligation for kids to be enrolled at school until they are six years old. If you want to home school then you must get an exemption from the Ministry of Education.

Children must attend school every day (unless ill) until they are 16.

  • Latest age to start school – 6
  • Earliest age to leave school – 16 (or 15 with permission from the Ministry of Education)

Home alone

It is illegal to leave a child under the age of 14 years without reasonable provision for their care – for more information read our article about what the law says regarding supervision. Age 14 is therefore also the legal age at which a child can babysit.

  • Youngest age to be left home alone – 14
  • Minimum legal age to babysit – 14


There is no minimum age for when kids can get a part-time job. However, their job must not interfere with their school attendance and there are laws about what they can do and the hours of work.

The age at which kids can have an Eftpos card varies from bank to bank.

  • Minimum age to start full time work – 16
  • Entitled to minimum wage – 16 (unless in the first six months of employment)
  • Able to apply for some Work and Income financial assistance plans – 16
  • Apply for a credit card or loan – 18
  • Join the armed forces with parental consent – 17
  • Start Police College – 18 (but can apply from age 17)


Teens need to be 16 before they can apply for a learner’s driving licence. Once a new driver passes their theory test, they must have held their learner licence for six months before they can apply for a restricted licence (taking a practical driving test). If the driver is under 25 years old, they must hold their restricted licence for at least 18 months before applying for a full licence. If the driver completes an advanced driving course, that time is reduced to 12 months. For those over 25, these times are reduced to six months and three months respectively.

  • Youngest age to get a learner driving licence – 16
  • Youngest age to take a driving test – 16.5
  • Youngest age to hold a full licence – 18 (or 17.5 after an advanced driving course)
  • Personally responsible for wearing a seatbelt in a vehicle – 15

Leaving home and relationships

  • Leave home without parental consent – 16 (unless there is concern for their welfare)
  • Decide which parent to live with if there is a separation – 16
  • Get married or enter a civil union with parental consent – 16
  • Get married or enter a civil union without parental consent – 18
  • Apply for an adult passport – 16
  • Legally consent to sex – 16
  • Change name – 16 (if married or in a civil union, otherwise the minimum age is 18)
  • Make a will – 16 (if married or in a civil union, otherwise the minimum age is 18)
  • Legally independent of parent/guardian – 18
  • Allowed to adopt a relative – 20
  • If adopted, can apply to Births, Deaths and Marriages for a birth certificate copy – 20
  • Buying over-the-counter contraceptives
  • A child under 16 can request a prescription for an oral contraceptive from their doctor without parental consent, but the doctor must be satisfied that this would be in the interests of her health
  • A female of any age has the right to consent to or refuse a lawful abortion


  • Be charged with murder or manslaughter – 10 and over
  • Be charged for other serious crimes – 12 and over
  • Be charged for breaking any law and dealt with by Youth Court – 14 to 17
  • Can be questioned without parent or adult present – 17
  • Treated as an adult by the criminal justice system – 17
  • Fully bound by any contract entered into – 18
  • Can be called for jury service – 18

Gambling, alcohol and fireworks

  • Buy an Instant Kiwi scratch card – 18
  • Buying a lottery ticket – no limit
  • Place a bet at the TAB – 18
  • Allowed to gamble or work in a casino – 20
  • Buy cigarettes and tobacco – 18
  • Buy alcohol – 18
  • Drink alcohol in a pub or licenced restaurant – 18
  • Be employed as a bar person – 18
  • Buy fireworks – 18
  • Drinking alcohol – no age limit. However, it is illegal to supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 years unless you are their parent/legal guardian and the alcohol is supplied in a responsible manner (or you have the parent/legal guardian’s consent)

Other stuff

  • Agree to, or refuse, medical treatment – 16
  • Apply for a firearms licence – 16
  • Fly a plane – 16
  • Vote in national elections – 18
  • Stand as a candidate in national elections – 18
  • Owning land/property – no limit
  • Getting a tattoo or piercing has no legal age limit. However, some local bylaws require those under 18 to have parental consent and many tattoo artists or body piercers also require parental consent for those under 16/18

Are any of these ages surprising to you? Is there anything else that you wonder about the legal age for?

This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ. Sources include

Please note that this information was believed to be correct at the time of publication. However we cannot be held responsible for its interpretation and encourage you to seek your own legal and financial advice, if required.

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  1. Bevik1971 15/11/2018 at 9:47 am

    Nothing here really that surprised me. But a really informative article! My now 25 year old son got his first tattoo at age 16 – I know some people would be shocked at that but he had left school and was working and I agreed to consent if he paid for it himself (and it wasn’t some hideous tattoo!). I’m glad the driver’s license age is 16 again BUT I still think it’s pretty young. I know kids can be left at home alone at 14, but it really depends on the child too 🙂

  2. Mands1980 14/11/2018 at 6:44 pm

    I found this quite interesting about what ages kids can do things. I never knew you had to be over 16 to get paid minimum wage. Also I never knew about what ages you can start to get your drivers license as when I got mine you could start at age 15. Thanks for this great article.

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