Major family violence laws introduced

New research by Women's Refuge showed that domestic violence negatively impacts victims in the...
Legislation introduced to Parliament today that will overhaul how family violence is dealt with in New Zealand.. Photo: Getty Images

Protection orders will be able to be applied for on behalf of children and adults who "lack capacity" to make the application themselves.

The change is part of legislation introduced to Parliament today that will overhaul how family violence is dealt with in New Zealand.

When the legislation was announced by then Prime Minister John Key in September one change was to allow others to apply for a protection order on a victim's behalf if they cannot because of physical incapacity or fear.

That has now been widened to cover victims who "lack capacity" to make the application themselves.

Other changes made in the drafting process of the Family and Whanau Violence Act include adding the term "perpetrator" to better recognise harm from family violence, and making clear non-contact includes digital communications from all internet sites and not just social media.

There will also be more information-sharing between agencies, and Family Court judges will get beefed-up powers to change the terms of a parenting order. For example, child contact arrangements could be tightened if a perpetrator fails to attend a programme.

New Zealand has the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence in the developed world.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the system needed to change to break the cycles of re-offending.

"It's undeniable that one of the most concerning and most difficult social issues facing New Zealand is our unacceptably high rate of family violence.

"Part of this is the ingrained and insidious nature of the problem. But it's also in the fact that there's no easy or quick fix."

The overhaul of the law has thrilled non-government organisations working to cut family violence rates.

Nearly 500 detailed submissions from individuals and groups were received after the Government released a discussion document in August 2015.

Changes included in the legislation and announced in September include:

• Creating new offences of non-fatal strangulation, coercion to marry, and assault on a family member.

• Making the safety of victims a principal consideration in all bail decisions, and at the centre of parenting and property orders.

• Flagging all family violence offences on criminal records. This will be done so the courts and police know when a person has such a history.

• Allowing others to apply for a protection order on a victim's behalf, and better providing for the rights of children under protection orders.

• Making offending while on a protection order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing.

• Letting people refer themselves to services to help stop violence, such as giving the perpetrator access to non-violence programmes, without them having to go to court.

• Make it easier for the sharing of information between the courts, police and the agencies and community organisations that deal with families.


If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice:
• National Network of Stopping Violence:
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.

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