A Bill that overhauls New Zealand’s family violence laws has passed its first reading in Parliament today with unanimous support, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.
“For too long, New Zealand has been ranked as having some of the worst reported rates of family violence in the world. It’s time to think about family violence differently and create an effective, integrated system for addressing this complex and insidious issue,” says Ms Adams.
“The changes in the Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill are the most significant reforms of our family violence system undertaken in the last two decades.”
The Bill will overhaul the 20-year-old Domestic Violence Act, amend six other Acts and make consequential changes to over 30 pieces of law.
“This Bill implements our Safer Sooner reforms announced in September 2016, aimed at breaking the cycle of family violence and reducing the harm it causes those who suffer this abhorrent form of abuse,” says Ms Adams.
“These reforms are the beginning of a new integrated system but even on their own they have the potential to significantly reduce family violence. The new offences and changes to protection orders alone are expected to prevent around 2300 violent incidents every year.
“There is no quick or easy fix, and laws alone cannot solve our horrific rate of family violence. But they are a cornerstone element in how we respond to tackling family violence and this Government is motivated by the difference we can make for New Zealanders.”
A copy of the Bill can be found here.
Key provisions of the Bill include:getting help to those in need without them necessarily having to go to court ensuring all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared putting the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions creating three new offences of strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member making it easier to apply for a Protection Order, allowing others to apply on a victim’s behalf, and better providing for the rights of children under Protection Orders making evidence gathering in family violence cases easier for Police and less traumatic for victims wider range of programmes able to be ordered when a Protection Order is imposed making offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing supporting an effective system of information sharing across all those dealing with family violence enabling the setting of codes of practice across the sector.
Police Minister Paula Bennett and Justice Minister Amy Adams have today announced $10 million for initiatives to improve Māori justice outcomes.
“It is well known that Māori are overrepresented at every stage in the criminal justice system. We’re not prepared to accept that continuing,” says Mrs Bennett.
“Tackling this issue is a priority for the justice sector which is why we have set aside $10 million of the Justice Sector Fund for initiatives that will improve outcomes for Māori in the justice system,” says Ms Adams.
The first initiative to be funded is a services hub which aims to prevent offending and reoffending. It will receive $4.73 million to deliver four new whānau-centred justice services, co-designed by the justice sector and Christchurch-based urban Māori organisation Ngā Maata Waka.
The services are:a program that aims to prevent at-risk young Māori from offending by assisting them to build positive whānau relationships and engage with their culture through activities such as kapa haka and te reo intensive mentoring for young people who have offended support for women in prison, their children and temporary caregivers support for young people to obtain driver licences.
“Police, with support from Corrections, will lead the delivery of these services in partnership with Ngā Hau E Whā marae. I’m hopeful that as the programmes start delivering results we’ll be able to develop further programmes for future iwi, Māori and justice sector services,” says Mrs Bennett.
The Justice Sector Fund assists projects that support the Government’s Better Public Service targets of reducing crime and reoffending, and allows agencies to trial new initiatives that deliver better results for New Zealanders.
Since its establishment in 2012, it has distributed $263 million of savings into 63 initiatives across the justice sector.
Today the Government issued an Expression of Interest to Community Housing Providers interested in taking over ownership of up to 2500 social houses in Christchurch. As part of this deal, the new provider will be required to provide at least 150 additional new social housing places.
“We want to see a diverse field of entities providing social housing to ensure the best responses for tenants. In addition, the transfer programme enables even more social houses to be provided across New Zealand,” says Social Housing Minister Amy Adams.
“The houses in any transfer will be legally required to stay as social houses. They aren’t being sold to private homeowners. Tenancies will be transferred along with the properties, which means tenants will stay where they are. Rent and rights won’t change.
“There will be more social housing in Christchurch as a result of a transfer, and the proceeds will be used to build even more social houses in the areas of most demand.
“The transfer will only go ahead if I am assured that it will result in better services for tenants and a fair value for taxpayers.
“The Government is focused on solving some of New Zealand’s longstanding social challenges. This means we need to try things differently.
“There are opportunities to improve services to tenants. We are looking for community housing providers prepared to step up to help support tenants to achieve housing independence and bring much-needed innovation and expertise to those in need of a roof over their heads.”
The proposed transfer includes up to 2500 properties around the suburbs of Shirley, Bryndwr and Riccarton. Housing New Zealand will continue to own and manage around 3300 properties across the city.
The proposed transfer can be found on GETS at www.gets.govt.nz/TSY/ExternalTenderDetails.htm?id=18484774
A potentially life-saving scheme that allows Police to disclose a person’s violent past to a partner or friend has been used 158 times since it was launched, say Police Minister Paula Bennett and Justice Minister Amy Adams.
“Since the scheme’s launch in December 2015, Police have approved 74 per cent of disclosure requests. Preventing family violence is a priority for Police and this scheme gives them another way to help reduce harm.”
A disclosure request can be made to Police by the partner of the potentially violent person or a concerned third party. Police can also proactively release information if they believe someone is at risk of violence from their partner.
“Police have told me about a disclosure they made to a young woman who was in a relationship with a man in his early 20s. He was known to have had multiple relationships with younger women where he became manipulative and used emotional abuse like threatening suicide if his partner left him. Police believed the woman was at risk as his behaviour was escalating towards becoming violent.
“When Police approached her to make the voluntary disclosure, she said she had seen the man’s behaviour deteriorating. As a result she made the decision to leave the relationship and move back in with family,” Mrs Bennett says.
“There have been too many cases where people have been unable to find out whether their partner, or the partner of someone close to them, has a history of violence,” says Ms Adams.
“This scheme allows people to make informed choices about their relationship and safety. We know that it has already helped a number of people to make the decision to remove themselves from a potentially violent relationship.”
Of the 158 requests made in the last 15 months, 117 have been requested proactively by Police while 41 have been by a third party. These requests have resulted in a total of 117 being approved for disclosures to be made.
Once a request has been received, a decision is made as to whether the disclosure can be made to individuals who must meet set criteria under the scheme’s policy.
Legislation passed in 2015 to curb cyber-bullying is effectively weeding out and punishing the worst offenders, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.
“The Harmful Digital Communications Act made it illegal to send messages and post material online that deliberately causes a victim serious emotional distress,” says Ms Adams.
“The law is also protecting those most vulnerable to online abuse by clamping down on bullies who encourage their victims to commit suicide, regardless of whether or not the victim attempts or is successful in taking their life.”
Since coming into force the Act has resulted in:132 criminal charges filed 77 criminal cases finalised 50 convictions and sentences 4 diversions completed 3 dismissals 1 discharge without conviction
“One of the worst cases we’ve seen involved a man who was jailed for sending half naked photos of his ex-girlfriend to a shared work email address. This shows the law is working well to punish the most serious offenders.”
The Act also established an Approved Agency, Netsafe, and civil court remedies to assess, investigate and deal with complaints about harm caused to individuals by digital communications.
“Since Netsafe began in November 2016, it has received over 600 requests for assistance with harmful digital communications,” says Ms Adams.
“The law tackles cyberbullying head on and simplifies the process for getting harmful communications off the internet quickly and effectively, while still respecting the right to free speech.”
Victims of crime are continuing to benefit from the Government’s Offender Levy which has generated more than $25 million since it was introduced, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.
The $50 levy, which contributes to support services for victims, has been imposed on all offenders at the point of sentencing since 2010.
“The Offender Levy is a way to help ease the financial and emotional burden that falls on victims of crime and ensures that offenders contribute to addressing the harm their crimes have caused,” says Ms Adams.
“In the 2015/16 financial year, $4.1 million generated by the levy was invested in support and services which helped around 5700 victims. This included $1.7 million to support sexual violence victims such as by employing specialist advisors who helped around 1400 victims through the court process.
“Since 2010, the Offender Levy has also funded grants for victims who need to travel to attend court, restorative justice or parole hearings. It has also funded grants for families of homicide victims to help with funeral expenses, lost income and counselling.”
Ms Adams says that although it is pleasing to see that the levy has been able to support thousands of victims, it is even more pleasing to see that the funds collected are reducing as a result of a drop in crime.
“$3.2 million was collected through the Offender Levy in 2015/16. This year is tracking toward $3 million, largely due to a reduction in crime in recent times.”
The Government’s plan to develop 12 old houses into 44 new social housing is moving at pace in Auckland.
Social Housing Minster Amy Adams and Associate Social Housing Minister Alfred Ngaro were onsite in Mt Wellington to see first-hand four Housing New Zealand developments on the go in Auckland.
Ten new two, three and four-bedroom homes have replaced three old 1960s houses at 24-26 Bernard St and 1 Kealy Road. Across the four Mount Wellington sites, there will soon be 44 modern homes, where old 12 houses once stood. In total the four developments will have the capacity to house around 240 people.
“These high-quality developments show the work this Government is leading to help get more social homes built in Auckland,” says Ms Adams.
“Over the next three years, we aim to grow the number of social houses from 66,000 today to 72,000 across the country.”
Mr Ngaro says, “The Government is aware of the demand for more social housing in Auckland. We’ve seen an increase in the number of people needing a social house and emergency accommodation in our biggest city.
“The transformation of these four sites is typical of the work Housing New Zealand is doing throughout Auckland to make more efficient use of its land and transform older housing stock to provide greater numbers of warm, dry homes in areas of high demand.
“There are a number of redevelopments on the go, with more on their way.”
The new homes are all designed and built to modern standards, and include double-glazing, insulation, thermal curtains, carpet, and low-maintenance plantings.
The Ministers also officially opened a new laneway at the redevelopment. They were joined by local primary school pupil Kahalia Marinoto, who won a competition to name the laneway Ātaahua Lane (ātaahua means beautiful in Māori).
About the four Housing New Zealand redevelopments:
· Ten new two, three and four-bedroom homes have replaced three old 1960s houses at 24-26 Bernard St and 1 Kealy Road.
Due for completion soon:
· 13 new homes - 7 are two bedroom, 2 are three bedroom and 4 are four bedroom at 19-21 Kealy Road / 257-259 Panama Road. They replace four old houses.
· 1 & 3 Ryburn Road, 596 Mt Wellington Highway – 13 new homes will replace three old homes on a 2423 sqm site.
· 216-218 Panama Road – where eight new homes are replacing two old houses.
The Integrated Safety Response (ISR) pilot has helped over 24,000 people through the development of more than 8,000 family safety plans, say Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.
The ISR pilot involves core agencies and NGOs teaming up to ensure that families experiencing violence get the right support to stay safe. It has been running in Christchurch since July 2016 and in Waikato since October 2016.
“More than 8,000 family safety plans were developed between July and the start of February through the ISR pilot, targeted to people and households that the pilot has identified as at risk of family violence,” says Ms Adams.
“The pilot has been making a real difference. There have been cases where serious harm or death was prevented as a result of the information sharing and inter-agency collaboration.”
Through the pilot there have been 776 cases reported per month in Christchurch and 951 per month in Waikato. Of these, between seven and 11 per cent are high risk cases which require intensive intervention involving Independent Victim Specialists and Perpetrator Outreach Services.
“Seeing the high volumes of family violence reported through the ISR pilot reinforces our Government’s commitment to building a better system for dealing with family violence,” says Mrs Tolley.
“The pilot allows us to test what works well and what could be done better so that we can ensure a new national model is robust, flexible and makes a real difference to the lives of victims and families.”
The ISR is expected to replace existing models of inter-agency family violence response as the Government maintains its focus on reducing family violence and protecting our most vulnerable.
Table: Types of incidents reported throughout the Pilot between July 2016 and start of February 2017
Threats of harm
From next month, Accessible Properties will take over 1138 social houses and tenancies owned by Housing New Zealand.
“This is the first regional, large-scale transfer of Government-owned social houses to a community housing provider. They are a major plank of our plan to improve social housing,” says Social Housing Minister Amy Adams.
“While the ownership of these social houses in Tauranga may change, nothing changes for the tenants – the house is a social house before the transfer and remains one after it, but the sale proceeds can be used to build even more social houses in the areas of most demand. The programme is designed so that we will get more houses overall, while ensuring tenants are better off.”
Social Housing Minister Amy Adams was in Tauranga for the opening of Accessible’s base of operations in Tauranga with Associate Social Housing Minister Alfred Ngaro, Tauranga MP Simon Bridges, and Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller.
“Accessible Properties has a proud history in New Zealand over more than 60 years of making a positive difference for tenants in the properties they already own. They have strong links to the Tauranga region, including a formal arrangement with local iwi and a good understanding of local community services,” says Ms Adams.
“In addition to the social houses being transferred, they have committed to providing an extra 153 properties in Tauranga, which will go a long way toward addressing the need for more social housing in this rapidly-growing city.
“The Social Housing Reform Programme has been designed so that it can be a win for the tenants, and community providers who want to step up to serve communities of need, and see more social houses built across NZ .”
Note to Editor: Our social housing plan
This year, the Government will spend $2.3 billion supporting 310,000 households with their accommodation. Those seeking immediate shelter can access an emergency Special Needs Grant so they have a warm, safe place to stay while they search for more sustainable housing. We have invested $354 million to help 8600 families every year with transitional housing, with 3660 of these to be in Auckland. We are also planning to grow the number of social houses available, from 66,000 today to 72,000 over the next three years.
A Bill to tackle money laundering and curb funding of terrorism has passed its first reading in Parliament today with unanimous support, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.
The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Amendment Bill will put in place the second phase of the AML/CFT Act.
“By extending the Act to lawyers, conveyancers, accountants, real estate agents, sports and racing betting, and businesses that deal in certain high value goods, we can better prevent and detect money laundering and reduce the impact on victims and the wider community,” says Ms Adams.
“The businesses that will have to comply with the Bill are at particular risk of being targeted by criminals. We have worked with the affected sectors to ensure that the changes strike the right balance between combating crime, minimising costs to business, and meeting international obligations.
“The Bill will align New Zealand with international AML/CFT obligations, and safeguard our reputation as being corruption free and a good place to do business.”
The Bill will now go to the Law and Order Select Committee for further review. Once the Bill passes, businesses will have a period of time to prepare for the changes.
Information about the Bill can be found here.