Service people enjoy many of the same basic rights as other New Zealanders, however some of these rights are limited. For example, if a service person cannot speak out publicly in a way that brings discredit on their service, and cannot refuse to follow an order even if they think it is unfair. This makes the right to complain through service channels very important.

A service person can make a complaint to the proper service authority. If they are unhappy with how their complaint is dealt with they can elevate the complaint through the proper service channels. DFO 3 sets out how this works. The highest a complaint can be elevated is to the Chief of Defence Force, but in the case of officers who believe that they have been wronged in respect of their conduct as an officer, or their honour, integrity, or professional standing has been impugned they may elevate their complaint to the Governor- General.

There are other ways a service person can complain, for example to their local Member of Parliament, to the Ombudsman (except in matters relating to their conditions of service), the Privacy Commissioner, and in some cases the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. Ultimately, a service person can seek redress through the Courts.

Complaints cannot be anonymous, they cannot be made on behalf of another person, they cannot be a “group complaint”, and they cannot be about the outcome of a summary trial or Court Martial. There are no time limitations for when a complaint may be made, it may be made immediately or years later. You may be unable to make a complaint after you leave the NZDF (although sometimes it is accepted anyway), but if you make a complaint which is unresolved when you release the process will continue.

The NZDF complaints process is relatively simple and if you need basic help, this should be provided by your chain of command. However, for complex complaints it is often helpful to have the assistance of a lawyer to draft the complaint and support you through the process. Frontline Law can give you the best chances of success, and a range of options if the complaint is not initially upheld.

Often, a complaint through the normal NZDF channels is handled well and a fair resolution found. However, sometimes complaints are not resolved fairly, or even at all. There are cases of complaints being made and no resolution given for many months or even years. In these cases, Frontline Law can help. Often the involvement of a lawyer elevates the issue to a decision maker or advisor that knows that the complaint must be dealt with fairly and in accordance with the rules.

Frontline Law is a team of talented lawyers, most of whom have previously served in the Armed Forces, New Zealand Police, and other uniformed organisations. 

The first step in getting support is to talk with a lawyer from Frontline Law about your situation and see what options we can offer you. Contact Frontline Law for a free initial consultation.