The Yes Vote – NZ Referendum on Child Discipline 2009

The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007

The provisions of this law, supported by an overwhelming proportion of politicians in 2007 now largely sit in Section 59 of the Crimes Act.

The purpose of the law was to amend the principal Act to make better provision for children to live in a safe and secure environment free from violence by abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction.

It repealed the old section 59 statutory defence and other provisions included:

  • Reassurance that reasonable force could be used to keep children safe and provide normal care.
  • A clear statement that the use of force for correction was never justified.
  • An affirmation of the fact that police could use discretion and not prosecute in cases of inconsequential assault.
  • That the Chief Executive (of the Ministry of Social Development) must review the effects of the Act and report to the Minister as soon as practical after the act has been in place 2 years.

The initial private members bill to repeal section 59 was for simple repeal but during its passage through Parliament various additional sections were added to address the major anxieties that the public and politicians had raised in debate:

  • Would adults be prosecuted for using reasonable force in situation where a child was in danger to himself or others (eg grabbing a child about to run onto the road), or where children were being disruptive or in need of care?
  • Would inconsequential assaults (for example, a small smack) be prosecuted)?
  • Would there be any unintended effects of the new law?

Unfortunately there has been no public education campaign to ensure the public understand the law and it is likely its provisions are not well understood. NGOs are distributing information currently.

While attitudes towards the law are changing some of those opposed to it make unverifiable claims that is it leading to unnecessary investigations. (See police activity since the law change, the law and child abuse, and misleading claims).

Another source of resistance to the new law is the claim that it is an unwarranted breach of parents rights to treat their children as they wish. The law places children on the same basis as adults in regard to assault and increases their protection – this is surely fair.

To view the law visit:

New Zealand’s child discipline law is a good one.
The law supports positive parenting.
The law increases children’s protection from assault.
Please email your MP and ask them to support retention of the current law.

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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