Opunake Coastal Column - A safer New Zealand for women and families

Columns
Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Government’s half-billion dollar Safer Communities package, which Prime Minister Bill English and Police Minister Paula Bennett announced last week, recognises that more is needed to protect women and children from crime, particularly at home.
The additional 1125 Police staff mean officers can respond faster to call-outs, wherever they are. This is especially good news for rural families, because it means 95 per cent of people will be within 25km of an around-the-clock Police presence.
The investment also addresses the underlying drivers of crime through preventative work and more rehabilitation for prisoners. And it supports young people to re-engage in education – setting at-risk youth on a more productive path.
Critically, it includes funding for 74 additional specialist investigators to target serious offending against children, as well as sexual assault and family violence.
Corrections and Police are already working together to share information about family violence risks and to stop intergenerational violence. This package gives them extra funding to do more of this.
We are determined that this significant investment will genuinely keep women, their families and their wider communities safer.
That’s why the package includes some challenging targets, including that Police will contribute to 10 per cent fewer deaths from family violence, a 25 per cent reduction in reoffending by Maori, and more than 90 per cent of 111 emergency calls answered within 10 seconds.
The $503 million Safer Communities package builds on the work National has done to reduce family violence, which is preventing too many families from enjoying healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.
Last year, we announced a major overhaul of family violence laws, supported by an investment of $130 million over four years. The changes included making the safety of victims a principal consideration in all bail decisions and central to parenting and property orders; enforcing tougher penalties for people who commit crimes while subject to a Protection Order; and creating new offences of non-fatal strangulation and assault on a family member – with tougher sentences than common assault.
We are also piloting an Integrated Safety Response (ISR) initiative in Christchurch and the Waikato, which brings together various agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) for a more integrated and effective response to family violence. We recently announced a $680,000 boost towards more frontline services and places in perpetrator programmes in the Christchurch pilot.
Tackling family violence is difficult and complex. But as the Prime Minister said, we are not here to shy away from the tough issues.