Election 2023 Special Feature
LawTalk invited each registered political party to respond to the same four questions around their legislative priorities and policies.
The General Election will be held on 14 October 2023, and justice policies are featuring prominently in the lead-up. In what is now a LawTalk tradition, we sought the views of each of the political parties in relation to both their justice policies and broader legislative agendas. This election special sets out the priorities of those political parties that took up this opportunity.
LawTalk sent the same four questions to each of the parties registered with the Electoral Commission Te Kaitiaki Take Kōwhiri on 18 July 2023. Each party was given a limit of 200 words for each answer. Where an answer was longer than 200 words, it was abridged, and this has been noted. Responses are reproduced as received, with any obvious spelling and other minor errors corrected.
The following registered parties did not respond in the timeframe provided: DemocracyNZ, New Nation Party, New Zealand First, One Party, Te Pāti Māori, and Vision New Zealand.
The first and most important job of government is to keep its citizens safe, and ACT’s key objective in the justice portfolio is public safety. To better protect New Zealanders, ACT would work to develop cross-party support for an agreed increase in police numbers in line with population increases. This would take the politics out of police numbers so that we could focus on the quality of policing. To help victims of crime, ACT would make it the responsibility of the Crown to pay reparations to victims immediately and to recover those costs from the offender. Criminals need to face consequences, so ACT will review the use of electronic monitoring for violent offenders, bring back Three Strikes and implement a new Three Strikes law for burglaries, recognising the harm burglaries cause. ACT will also target gang finances and illegal firearms. Ending crime means tackling its causes, so ACT would require prisoners to complete skills or rehabilitation programmes before being considered for parole. ACT will fix Oranga Tamariki so that fewer young people start on the path to prison.
The key objective for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (ALCP)is to end the injustice of cannabis prohibition and restore respect for law and order. Continuing to criminalise the cannabis community considering almost 50 per cent voted YES in the 2020 Cannabis Referendum, is a ‘crime against humanity’. People have suffered enough under this inhumane regime and there is no good scientific reason to pursue this expensive legal folly.
We plan to meet this objective by following the recommendations of the Law Commission Report of 2011, which stated in summary, that ‘cannabis is a health issue not a criminal matter’.
Since 1996 for the last 26 years, the ALCP has led the fight for:
The Green Party’s vision is of communities that are safer because we have shifted the focus of our justice system to crime prevention and to the rehabilitation of those who have offended.
We know our communities are safer when everyone has access to key services and enough to make ends meet, but current approaches to justice ignore the fundamental drivers of crime and often push people further into crisis.
Aotearoa New Zealand needs a justice system that treats everyone with humanity, dignity, and respect: the Green Party will ensure communities and whānau have what they need to thrive, including mental healthcare, addiction support, affordable homes, and liveable income support. We will create meaningful alternatives to putting people in prison and support Māori leadership on justice transformation. We will address poverty and inequality so we can make everyone safer while supporting those who offend to address the root causes of their offending, to rebuild, and to live healthy, fulfilling lives.
New Conservatives’ main objectives are to suppress current crime and prevent developing crime.
To effectively control current offending, we must have, as a minimum, a properly functioning criminal justice system. Firstly Police must be increased in staff and funded to perform their work, focussing on faster response and safety of the community. Being on the beat, not giving tickets, and that they are given sufficient powers.
The courts and legal aid must also be properly funded. Organised crime and gangs need to be suppressed by banning gang patches, control of gangs in prison to prevent recruitment, and if required outlawing gangs as terrorist organisations.
There will be higher penalties for ram raids, and dangerous offending will not be eligible for home detention, such as firearms use, ram raids and carrying of knives. Home detention will be available for longer terms but for non-dangerous offending. Firearms abuse will be stopped.
Probation systems must be properly funded to carry out their rehabilitative tasks.
An anti-corruption board will be set up to examine complaints regarding prosecutions and Police.
No more private prisons, which waste money and are often understaffed and badly run. We will ensure a minimum level of guards per prisoner and legal access.
Labour’s focus in the justice portfolio is on prevention, protection, and responsibility.
To keep New Zealanders safe, we’re ensuring that those who commit serious and violent crimes are held accountable while also providing a modern approach to rehabilitation for low-risk offenders to set them on a different path and reduce re-offending.
We want a justice system where victims are heard, and our track record demonstrates this. We have tripled the funding to the Victim Assistance Scheme and doubled the funding to Victim Support. We will also introduce legislation to give greater protections and rights to the victims of family and sexual violence.
We are committed to looking at the evidence and doing what works. For instance, our approach to youth crime reflects that intervening early and intensively is the best way to break the cycle of offending. We are also taking steps to increase accountability for child offenders and will establish a new criminal offence for ram-raiding.
Our primary objectives are to reduce the number of victims of crime and to restore law and order. We drop Labour’s goal of reducing the prison population by 30 per cent, irrespective of crime levels, and by restoring real consequences for crime. Policies include restoring Three Strikes for our most serious repeat offenders, restricting the ability of judges to reduce sentences massively and giving police powers to deal effectively with gangs. To support victims of crime, we will redirect funds from the cultural reports cottage industry to provide more support for victims. To aid with rehabilitation, we will ensure programmes are available to prisoners on remand.
Second, we will combat youth offending by introducing the Young Serious Offender category, creating military academies for youth offenders, and empowering community-based organisations to supervise young offenders.
Third, we will prioritise speeding up the court processes because currently, countless lives are put on hold, waiting years for justice or a resolution to their disputes.
Fourth, in relation to electoral rights, we will restore equal voting rights at the local government level by repealing the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Act 2022, which moves away from equal voting rights and regular democratic accountability.
Our party is staunchly committed to a comprehensive overhaul of the justice sector, rooted in principles of affordability, accessibility, accountability, transparency, and the eradication of racism as a barrier to justice. Recognising judges’ pivotal role as the bedrock of our justice system, we are dedicated to enhancing their independence and accountability.
This resolute commitment underscores our determination to uphold the rule of law and serve the public interest. We propose instituting a fundamental duty for Crown Law employees, ensuring their allegiance to equitable, lawful, reasonable, and just decision-making grounded in established legal principles.
Furthermore, our dedication to enhancing justice’s integrity encompasses meticulously reviewing the Independent Law Society Review’s recommendations. This includes legislative changes and establishing an independent regulatory body devoid of ministerial influence. Ensuring the standards committee complaints process is overseen by retired judges, promoting impartiality and ethical standards, is equally vital. Similarly, we will closely scrutinise the Police Conduct Authority’s effectiveness, paralleling our efforts for the judiciary. To enhance police transparency and accountability, we will mandate body camera use, addressing concerns of police misconduct and fostering public trust.
This comprehensive approach encapsulates our vision for a transformed justice system that upholds fairness and equality and reflects an unwavering commitment to our society’s foundational principles.
The Opportunities Party’s ultimate priority for criminal justice is reducing offending and reducing reoffending. TOP is focused on addressing the underlying drivers, including social and environmental factors that lead people into the criminal justice system in the first place. The Police, courts, and prisons, do not (and arguably are not designed to) address those drivers. TOP has a plan to tackle poverty and growing inequality, that is creating a wedge between different groups in society, where some have lost their sense of belonging and connection with their wider community and society, which is ultimately leading to a breakdown in social cohesion, manifesting in criminal behaviour.
It is ironic and frustrating to see some parties claim to be “tough on crime”, while focusing only on symptoms, and presenting no plan to tackle these wider issues (and despite the evidence that sentence lengths do not deter offending). For young people in particular, we need to give them a fair start to adult life, so they not only feel cared about by society, but are given the financial support and education to genuinely have an opportunity to fulfil their potential and feel empowered to do so. TOP’s Teal Card is discussed below.
ACT is still developing its justice policies, and we will have more to say on this prior to the election.
Meeting the objectives of legalising cannabis, will obviate the need to have access to legal aid, reducing police and court time, probations, and administrative sections of the Ministry of Justice.
The unmet legal needs of the cannabis community must be addressed. This community has no protection or recourse under the current law. Justice needs to be restored to this sector who are the only community in Aotearoa New Zealand being criminalised for their beliefs. It is also unfair that the other recent social reforms as in prostitutes and homosexuals, did not have to go through a referendum, but by a parliamentary process which is where we think cannabis law reform should be heading.
The law should benefit everyone equitably, but cost is currently a major barrier to accessing justice. The Green Party will extend legal aid, better resource community law centres, and make applications for protection and parenting orders free. We will centre hapū, iwi, and Māori-led solutions, acknowledging that the justice system has not met the needs of Māori communities. The Green Party will also:
New Conservatives will ensure sufficient funding to meet legal aid requirements.
Family Court should no longer be adversarial but inquisitorial. Lawyers should; assist and prepare, not get into constant publicly-funded paper wars. The legal aid system will no longer be an endless pocket for family disagreements. The Family Court approach to day-to-day care will start based on shared custody, not one parent.
The Law Society will also be required to allow more direct input and delegation to the various regional branches.
Forensic mental health and probation will help with earlier recognition of problems and an increase in specialist courts such as the drugs and alcohol courts.
Increased mental health assistance and support at the courts and with follow-ups, e.g., sex-offending courses. This will extend to ensuring available rehabilitation courses in and out of prison.
Legal aid rates will be kept up to date with inflation adjustments to keep it attractive to lawyers to remain in the system. The red tape needs removal to simplify legal aid, which criminal lawyers now spend up to half their time meeting.
There will be more specialist courts, e.g. for drugs and alcohol etc.
Legal aid is central to ensuring equity in New Zealand’s justice system.
New Zealand’s legal aid scheme has come under strain in recent years, with settings largely unchanged since 2011. We have taken action by:
We will continue to ensure that access to justice is promoted for all New Zealanders. Our policies in this area will be outlined in Labour’s 2023 manifesto.
The best way to improve access to justice is to extract better efficiency from the court processes. Many programmes are underway, but we don’t believe there has been sufficient government focus or urgency on the complex task of reducing court delays. Speeding up access to justice will be one of our three priorities in the justice sector.
We note the modest improvement to legal aid funding in the recent budget, and we will continue to adjust rates as fiscal pressures allow.
Our focus on addressing access to justice and unmet legal needs remains paramount. We pledge to cultivate an equitable justice system that transcends financial barriers and dismantles racial disparities. Our approach encompasses robust enhancement of legal aid programmes, ensuring effective support is provided to individuals lacking representation resources. This endeavour seeks to empower marginalised communities, fostering inclusivity and fairness in legal proceedings while eradicating racial biases.
Furthermore, as part of our commitment to a fair and just judicial system, we will take a serious look at the Bail Amendment Act. Our intention is to return to the foundational principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” By shifting the onus back to the prosecutor rather than burdening the defendant, we aim to restore the presumption of innocence and ensure that individuals are not unduly disadvantaged while awaiting trial. This change underscores our dedication to safeguarding individual rights and maintaining the integrity of the justice process.
Through these combined efforts, we endeavour to bridge the gap between privilege and underrepresentation, creating a society where every individual can fully participate in and benefit from a legal system rooted in fairness, equality, and the preservation of fundamental rights. This holistic approach brings us closer to a future where justice is not just an ideal but a tangible reality for all.
A person’s access to legal aid should not be dependent upon their relationship status, or the income or assets of their partner. Old-fashioned assumptions about how relationships work (and assumptions that a partner or spouse is willing or able to pay for their legal fees) should not be a barrier for people to have access to legal representation. A person’s means should be based on their own individual financial position. That will inevitably mean funding for legal aid needs to be significantly expanded. Alongside such changes means the Public Defence Service will need increased funding and resources (an organisation that has long been underfunded and under-resourced as it is). Justice is expensive. But a well-functioning criminal justice system requires every defendant’s right to legal representation to be meaningful, and is critical to a well-functioning society.
Access to justice is not only about access to legal representation, but understanding the process along the way. Porirua’s Young Adult List is an excellent step forward in this regard, with the July 2021 Report showing positive results improving understanding, involvement, and accountability. This is the very type of initiative that needs to be established around the country.
ACT has supported the introduction of Family Court Associates, Associate Coroners, audio-visual facilities in courts, and other measures introduced by the government to help address court backlogs.
Success in our goals of cannabis law reform will take cannabis criminality out of the court system. This in turn will help to unclog and free up the police, courts, and probation services, saving money and improving court efficiency and outcomes at all levels.
The Green Party will prioritise rehabilitation by reforming the justice system to ensure that legal proceedings do not re-traumatise victims and survivors. We will expand specialist youth courts (e.g. the Rangatahi and Pasifika Courts throughout Aotearoa), minimise the use of remand in youth detention facilities, and reform bail and sentencing laws to allow for more non-custodial community outcomes.
We will further improve courts and court processes by:
More funding, properly applied.
There has been a serious increasing systemic shortage of judges, court time, and staffing. Justice delayed is justice denied, and also punishment and rehabilitation delayed–proper funding and increasing of staff to ensure resources for the judicial and legal systems. More funding for probation and courses will allow rehabilitation to work properly. Legal aid will need to be increased also as we have a serious shortage, especially in the Family Court.
The Police must also be independent and not prosecute to prevent bias. All prosecutions should be by the Crown and a new prosecution branch for lesser offending.
Reduce unnecessarily time-consuming requirements.
We need to speed up the legal process; it used to be weeks for family violence matters, but it is now months or years.
The courts will look at more dismissals of prosecutions for excessive delay. Bail breaches should be dealt with by short terms of imprisonment, not lengthy remands in custody for minor offending. Improve access for prisoners to programmes. Increase education/trades pre-training in prisons. Lawyers’ access to clients in prison must be properly extended.
In Budget 2022, we committed three years’ worth of funding for justice sector initiatives, including work programmes aimed at improving our courts and court processes.
We acknowledge that there has been an increase in delays in the court system as a result of various factors. These delays have been frustrating for parties, lawyers, and court staff alike.
The existing paper-based system run by our courts is antiquated and does not link electronically to judges, counsel, or parties. We have embarked upon a project to digitise court practices, which is currently in procurement and will vastly improve the efficiency of the courts in the long term.
In the meantime, we have committed funding for the courts to employ additional judges and administrative staff. We also recently announced a boost to funding for Police prosecutions, which will cover an extra 44 staff focused on in-court work and a further 41 staff in key support roles.
Our policies in this area will be outlined in Labour’s 2023 manifesto.
Kiwis are being denied access to justice by massive delays in our courts and tribunals systems. While COVID-19 and severe weather events did exacerbate longstanding issues, we’ve seen a lack of urgency, imagination and determination on the part of the government to reform the system.
National will improve the court experience for all users by ensuring technology is used more effectively to resolve disputes quickly. Audio-visual links will be utilised much more than is currently the case. Some of the necessary legislative frameworks are already available through the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010 and temporary tools provided during the covid19 period.
We will balance this need for administrative efficiency and accessibility with the dictates of natural justice. For example, jury trials and/or criminal trials involving a potential sentence of imprisonment will still take place in person.
By using technology more freely and making other reforms (such as extending the hours of courts’ and tribunals’ operation), National will improve access to justice for every Kiwi using our courts.
Our approach encompasses enhancing legal aid programmes to ensure effective support for individuals lacking resources for representation. This endeavour aims to empower marginalised communities, fostering inclusivity and fairness in legal proceedings while eradicating racial biases.
To foster a just society, our party is steadfast in modernising court processes. We propose a transformative reform: mandating the recording of all court proceedings and providing accessible transcripts. This initiative amplifies accountability, accuracy, and the review process while striving to eliminate racial biases. By harnessing technological advancements, we aim to streamline proceedings, minimise delays, and bolster public confidence in an equitable and unbiased justice system.
Our dedication to holistic justice reform signifies our unwavering commitment to bridging the divide between privilege and underrepresentation. We champion not only a just and fair proceedings but also emphasise the utmost importance of judicial independence and accountability. Recognising the need for oversight, our party will review and fortify the Office of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, ensuring fair hearings for every individual, regardless of background. These comprehensive efforts pave the way for a society where justice is genuinely accessible and fair for all, epitomising our democratic foundation’s core values.
Specialist courts that target underlying dependency issues have seen excellent results in reducing offending. The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODT) has achieved an overall reduction of 28 per cent over the first three years post sentence, and a 27 per cent lower imprisonment rate. Longer-term support for graduates is needed to ensure longer-lasting success. The cost-benefit ratio found the benefits to outweigh the costs (at 1.33). In light of these results, this model should be implemented around the country. ten years plus into this programme, and it is still only in Auckland and Hamilton! TOP calls for this model to be rolled out nationally.
TOP also supports efforts in recent years that focus on improving the experience of going through court for victims. However more work needs to be done, particularly to address long-term impacts many victims experience in the weeks, months and years after the Court case is over. The ongoing specialist support service offered to families in cases of homicide long after the case has finished is an essential service that needs to be made available for families and victims of other crimes (including the 30 sessions of specialist counselling), particularly for victims of sexual violence.
Most New Zealanders think the country is on the wrong track, and many are voting with their feet and leaving. We need to change that. ACT is determined to turn things around fast and bring real, positive change to New Zealand. To deliver that change in the first year, ACT wants to:
Legalising cannabis will be our immediate legislative priority and to expunge all cannabis convictions. By ending cannabis prohibition and the black market it has created, we will help reduce the chaos and dysfunction we now see, resulting from distrust of the system.
Our policy will end the current regime wasting millions of dollars in futile pursuit of ordinary citizens the majority (80 per cent) of whom have broken the current laws on cannabis.
The Aotearoa Legalisation policy is about saving the taxpayers’ dollars. The development of the three sustainable planks of Recreational, Medicinal and Hemp Industries will bring untapped wealth to the New Zealand economy while contributing to saving the environment. A winning result.
Our priority always is to support people, nature, and climate to thrive. More Green MPs around the decision-making table mean that we can truly shape the direction of the next government: a government that will take bold action to build a cleaner, fairer future for all of us, where all of our energy needs are met by clean power; where the land has healed, and wildlife thrives; and where everyone has a liveable income and an affordable home to make their own – all paid for with a fair tax system.
We have made a Pledge to Renters that in the first 100 days of a new government, we will introduce a Renters’ Rights Bill to ensure everyone who rents has a safe, healthy and affordable place to call home: www.greens.org.nz/our_pledge_to_renters
Our key objectives and legislative priorities are set out in full in the 2023 Manifesto; The Time is Now: .
The 5 per cent threshold for elections will be lowered to 3.5 per cent.
We will make the Bill of Rights supreme law and entrench it to control the unbridled power of parliament.
Develop a recommendation committee for criminal law changes to ensure that there is proper legal consideration for the consequences of legal changes. Parliament cannot just have knee-jerk reactions and remove defences that arose over hundreds of years.
New laws dealing with gangs and dangerous crime, especially gang wars/strife, the safety of the community etc. Control of firearms and knives. Crackdown on fad offending, like ram raids.
Laws to increase legal aid and legal aid rates.
Work on strengthening family involvement, rehabilitation and early intervention, especially for at-risk youth.
In the justice portfolio, our immediate legislative priority for the next parliamentary term is to enact changes we announced in July 2023 to reduce youth offending. These changes include a new criminal offence targeting ram raid offending, an aggravating factor in sentencing for posting offending behaviour online, and an aggravating factor where an adult uses a young person to commit a crime.
Labour’s 2023 manifesto will detail the remainder of our legislative priorities.
National will publish a 100-day plan before the election, which will include a range of important commitments. Before Christmas, we have committed to repealing the government’s Resource Management Act reforms in its entirety and repealing the Three Waters legislation within 100 days. Further announcements will be made in due course. There is a lot of work to do to turn this country around.
In our pivotal first year, we will prioritise fundamental rights, transparent governance, and comprehensive justice reform. Eradicating racial barriers is paramount. We’ll revoke the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and fortify the New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990 for enforcement.
Balancing prudence, we’ll limit emergency powers, safeguard human rights, and combat systemic racism. Strategic budget allocation will incentivise crime reduction, ensuring equitable resourcing of disadvantaged communities. Our commitment extends to reviewing the Bail Amendment Act 2013 and restoring the presumption of innocence.
In line with our focus on equitable justice, we’ll rigorously examine the Independent Law Society Review’s proposals and establish a regulatory body. Alongside this, the standards committees will be manned by retired judges, ensuring impartiality and ethical standards. To enhance police accountability and transparency, we’ll strengthen the Police Conduct Authority. Recognising the need for oversight, we’ll review and reinforce the Judicial Conduct Commissioner.
These actions, coupled with reinforcing judicial independence, underscore our dedication to individual liberties, responsible governance, and an equitable society. Our inaugural year focus ensures justice for every New Zealander.
The Opportunities Party wants to bring fresh thinking, smart ideas and political courage to Parliament, to deliver fairer and more sustainable outcomes. TOP’s Teal Card is part of our plan for real change. It is a way to invest in our young people, to ensure financial equity and healthier outcomes for all our children, in a way that provides young people with a genuine fair start to adult life.
The Teal Card would provide all young people under 30 with fully-funded healthcare (including GP visits, dentist, optometrist, and mental health support) to ensure they have access to primary care, at a time in their life when we know young people struggle the most financially.
The Teal Card would also provide fully-funded public transport, with a grant for electric bikes or scooters. Alongside a savings boost for all who choose to take part in a national civics education programme, which can open the door for training or studies, or helping to get into a rental to live independently.
This is how we can give young people a fair start in life. It is a step up. It will provide hope, and it is the right thing to do.