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.

School

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

Working

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)

Driving

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

Crime

  • 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 http://youthlaw.co.nz/rights/legal-ages/

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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11 Comments

  1. dawnblyth 02/12/2018 at 5:05 pm

    Its amazing that you can get married at 16 years of age but are only legally allowed to look after another child at 14yrs of age. It seems a rather large decision to make that can have quite serious consequences to let 16yr old make. I know that every child is different in what they are capable of but some of these decisions leave me to wonder how they came up with these ages. For example, a spur of the moment dare to change your name by deed poll at 16yrs of age does not allow for thought and understanding of the decision they are making. Sometimes I think we allow children to make decisions they are just not ready mentally to make and as parents it is our job to keep our children safe.

  2. Shelz69 02/12/2018 at 9:01 am

    Wow some of the ages do not seem right do they. I can’t believe they can buy a lotto ticket at any age, that is crazy. My daughter is always winning stuff im going to get her to start buying them from now on. I have spoken to the police directly and they told me there is no legal age stated for leaving a child at home alone unless there is another child present and then it becomes babysitting as long as reasonable care is provided for there safety. This is also subjective and can be abused. However I think it strange that your child can walk to school alone and be exposed to a lot more danger than being locked in a secure home for 20 min when you go to the shops.

  3. Alezandra 01/12/2018 at 10:34 pm

    This is very interesting research. Here I thought the minimum age to be left alone at home was lower. It’s quite tricky though as we know even a 14 year old can possibly not mature enough to be left alone. Ages aren’t really reliable indication of doing certain things…like driving etc.

  4. kymmage 30/11/2018 at 9:52 pm

    I was surprised there was no limit on a lotto ticket when there is one for a scratchie. They are both gambling. Also the marriage age. I think I knew the parental consent age was 16. But I thought it was 20 without parental consent. I think the age for leaving your kid alone is often a confusing one.

  5. Jen_Wiig 28/11/2018 at 8:42 am

    Gosh so many laws have changed over the years. I remember you had to be 21or 25 to get married without permission and 18 with parental permission I only know that because a friend of mine at the ripe old age of 19 went to get married and when getting the licences to fill out she had to get parental permission.
    Also recently a local police officer went to my eldes sons school (intermediate) to discuss keeping safe and she advised that any child can be left unsupervised for an hour or 2 and it was upto parent(s) desrection as to how old..some 11/12 yes old are mature enough and some 16yr olds deff aren’t it’s more about the child than the actual age apparently but yet the law says otherwise I dont get it?? I dont personally do it but talk about confusing I kinda wish there was one unified age for things…16 can legally have a child but cant leave home without permission or vote.. or drink…15 used to be age to get licence now 16 which kinda good but so confusing trying to keep up with what age is what.

    • Jen_Wiig 28/11/2018 at 8:44 am

      Sorry typos big time
      I personally *Dont do it
      11/12 *Year olds

  6. SarahBlair 26/11/2018 at 6:31 pm

    I think that some of these are a little strange, you can get married, get pregnant and have a gun before you can vote or drink a beer…? I think that at 16 a kid can have much more life changing events than at 18 by the legislation.

  7. MuddledUpMolly 26/11/2018 at 3:36 pm

    Some of the ages under the ‘crime’ section are very sad 🙁 Is that correct about the no limit age for buying a lotto ticket? I don’t think that sounds correct…

  8. Shorrty4life1 20/11/2018 at 10:09 pm

    This was a very interesting read. Wowee I never knew about the crimes part like how young they can be charged for certain crimes. Over the age of 10 for murder. Wowee that would be sad if a child went to that extent at that age. It is sad at any age but wow I’m absolutely gobsmacked. There’s some quite interesting stuff on this article. I found it very intreging

  9. 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 🙂

  10. 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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