Our research group

The ACC Group is a cross-university group of researchers with an interest in ACC and in protecting the unique, no fault, social contract of New Zealand’s approach, first conceived by Sir Owen Woodhouse in the 1967 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Compensation for Personal Injury in New Zealand.

The ACC Group is affiliated to the ACC Futures Coalition.

Visit the ACC Futures Coalition website

History of the ACC scheme

In 1974 New Zealand adopted the most revolutionary and innovative system for accident compensation in the Western world, known by the acronym ACC. The defining legislation, now called the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act has its genesis in the 1967 Woodhouse report: Compensation for personal injury in New Zealand. Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry.

The scheme has been much admired internationally, but no other country has adopted in full the radical aspects of the ACC legislation. The defining characteristics are that 24-hour cover extends for all personal injuries regardless of fault, and that there is no right to sue for damages for such injuries. The foundations are prevention, rehabilitation, and proper compensation, with a social insurance approach that prioritises these objectives and minimises administrative complexity and cost.

The scheme was first introduced as the outcome of the deliberations by the Royal Commission on worker compensation (Woodhouse report), but differed in many important aspects from that Commission’s far-sighted recommendations. In part, the differences arose because of the strong historical overlay of the old workers’ compensation scheme. Legislators of the day bowed to the pressure of the status quo, perpetrating, for example, ideas of private insurance and the efficacy of economic incentives for safety, through the operations of the levy system.

Since the inception of the scheme in 1974 there has been a large number of changes and counter changes to ACC (see the Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, 34 (2), 2003 and 35 (4), 2005), many of which reflect a tussle with the idea that the scheme is just private insurance dressed up and can be improved by the return to more emphasis on private insurance principles. Politically, this clash of basic principles has been played out in policy lurches, especially since the early 1990s. The last of these was in 1998 when the work-related part of the scheme was privatised under a National-led coalition government, and then equally dramatically reversed in 1999 with the election of a Labour-led government.

Although the privatisation experiment was halted, there is a danger that the uniquely advantageous aspects of ACC have been, and may be further, undermined. Aspects of common law, for example, may be creeping back, in part, as a response to perceived deficiencies in the compensation received by some victims. The widespread misunderstanding of the role of ACC as social insurance and the nature of the social contract is becoming an especially critical issue as more disabilities such as deafness and stress become compensable to reflect the complexities of a modern working environment. Furthermore the inequities that arise from treating long-term disability from non-occupational illness far less comprehensively and generously than those “caused” by an accident will continue to put pressure on ACC to expand coverage, again raising issues of the suitability of current funding mechanisms.

1967 Woodhouse report - free online

In honour of the 13 December 2007, 40-year anniversary of the publication of the 1967 Woodhouse report, The University of Auckland Library has made a searchable digital copy, which is freely available.

View an online version of the Woodhouse report

ACC research online resources

Additional ACC research resources are available from The University of Auckland ACC Group's Business & Economics Information Services (BEIS) library resources website.

Visit the BEIS ACC Research web page