In 2009 the New Zealand Government enforced an Anti-Smacking Law. But what does this law mean exactly, and what are your rights as a parent?

What Is The Law?

In 2009 The New Zealand Public was asked to vote and pass a referendum regarding the question “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Following the vote the Government enforced the Anti Smacking Law.

The purpose of the Anti-Smacking law is essentially to make better provision for children so that they can live in a safe and secure environment that is free from violence. The Anti-Smacking law seeks to achieve this by abolishing the use of parental force for the purposes of correction.

The Purpose Of The Law

Although most parents do not abuse their children unfortunately some parents do and it is a big problem in New Zealand.

The Anti-Smacking law provides a safe and secure environment for both children and adults and ensures positive outcomes as children grow up. The law makes it clear that physical discipline is not a necessary or acceptable part of parenting because it undermines a child’s feelings of safety and security. In addition, the law helps to ensure that a child’s right to a fair deal in the courts is respected.

New Zealand among a growing number of countries around the world who have a legal ban on the use of physical punishment with children.

The law is designed to teach children that physical discipline is not the answer. Violence leads to fear and distrust of adults and often does not help children understand what behaviour is expected of them.

The law helps to ensure that children’s right to a fair deal in the courts are respected.

The law places New Zealand among a growing number of countries around the world who have a legal ban on the use of physical punishment with children.

What Are The Rules?

The rules apply to section 59 of the New Zealand Crimes Act. Use of force for correction is strictly forbidden. The Anti-Smacking Law states that adults who hit children hard enough to be prosecuted cannot excuse their behaviour as ‘correction’.

Adults caring for children can still use ‘force’ (by methods of holding or restraining) to keep children safe – for example adults can stop a child from running out onto the street, touching a hot stove, hurting themselves or other children and they can carry a protesting child out of a supermarket.

In using ‘force’ parents or guardians must act in good faith and have a reasonable belief that the force is both subjectively and objectively reasonable.

Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints made against a parent of a child or guardian where the offence is considered to be so minor that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

Many everyday tasks require parents to use force when interacting with their children who are often stubborn and fidgety. When changing nappies, dressing or securing a child in a car seat the use of reasonable force in performing such tasks is permitted.

Police Investigation

If the Police are called by a member of the public believing unfair force has been used against a child, the Police will treat the incident as an assault investigation. The Police will consider the amount of force used and examine all circumstances of the situation. If possible the Police may refer the situation to Child Abuse Investigators where further examining will take place.

If a parent of a child or guardian of a child uses force that is not justified under section 59 of the New Zealand Crimes Act, and there are no exceptional circumstances for which Police may chose not to take legal action, the parent or guardian will be charged with assault and prosecutions will begin to take place.

How To Understand The New Zealand Anti-Smacking Law, 3.4 out of 5 based on 19 ratings



  1. daveh says:

    When does this law differentiate between a “chil” and an adult.
    i.e when does (at what age)a child become an adult that this law does not apply to?

    VA:F [1.9.17_1161]
    Rating: 4.5/5 (13 votes cast)
  2. Jackson Brown says:

    According to the NZ Crimes Act “Child” is not defined and it is not clear whether it includes those persons 17 years of age and under, or perhaps, under 14 years of age.
    The law therefore states that as children get older, the use of reasonable force for the purposes listed in the NZ Crimes Act will become less justifiable.

    Factors that will are considered by NZ Police and officials in determining whether smacking can be used is justified under section 59 of the NZ Crimes Act and includes:
    1. age of the child
    2. maturity of the child
    3. ability of the child to reason
    4. characteristics of the child, such as physical development, and state of health
    5. the circumstances that led to the use of force.

    VA:F [1.9.17_1161]
    Rating: 3.1/5 (18 votes cast)
  3. Drufford says:

    The opening paragraph of this article is incorrect, the law had already been adapted to criminalise smacking before a referendum was held.

    The referendum “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” was forced on the government by petition and the result was that 84% voted NO. The results of the referendum were ignored.

    VA:F [1.9.17_1161]
    Rating: 4.6/5 (38 votes cast)
  4. maria says:

    At the end of the day anti-smacking bill should mean just that…. y should a parent have a right to justify there actions when using any kind of force on their children. There are other ways that are proven to work better than smacking. think about the child’s rights here! why should a child be ruled by fear that if they do something wrong they are going to get hurt. All this does it teach children at a young age that it’s ok to be violent, and teach them to be ruled by fear instead of ruled by the right guidence!

    VA:F [1.9.17_1161]
    Rating: 2.4/5 (42 votes cast)
  5. lizi says:

    maria i totally agree with you, im training as an early childhood teacher and there is absolutly no reason to smack a child. you can guide a child quite easily with out smacking them. here in new zealand we need to set up non optional parenting classes for all new parents to teach then how to guide a child a that they wont have to resort to smacking :)

    VA:F [1.9.17_1161]
    Rating: 2.4/5 (38 votes cast)
  6. kiwi says:

    I disagree with Lizi and maria! AS AN ABUSED CHILD MYSELF I voted NO on the referendum! Now… even from a young age I could tell the difference between smacking and abuse. I distinctly remember my father smacking me once for lighting matches, i never played with matches again so I guess it worked. contrast this with being dragged down the hallway to bed by my clothing which became coiled around my neck and gave me bruses and carpet burn and you can not tell me these two are in any way similar.
    also parenting classes dont do shit, im sorry MY MOTHER attended MANY a parenting course including one on one. even failing one.

    perhaps instead of removing reasonable force perhaps define what reasonable force IS!

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    Rating: 4.3/5 (47 votes cast)
  7. ECE Teacher says:

    I agree with kiwi. What about this…is it ok for your child to kick you in the groin, kick you, punch you, and hit you while you stand there and say…”I don’t like how your treating me right now. You need to stop”. How do you guide this positively? Do you think being sent to the naughty chair is going to help a child that does this? Or banning them to their room for time out? How many times can you tell a child this is unacceptable behaviour? So is it fair to say its ok for children to treat you this way?

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    Rating: 4.5/5 (35 votes cast)
  8. Gemma says:

    So what are you suggesting ECE Teacher? that we use physical punishment on children to show them that hitting and kicking is unacceptable behaviour? It’s telling them that it’s not okay for them to do it but it is for adults because they are teaching them a lesson. A bit of a contradictory lesson.

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    Rating: 2.8/5 (24 votes cast)
  9. Adel says:

    Well done to the ‘adults’ who wrote the bill and passed the law. By the time this next generation – who won’t have been given the opportunity to be disciplined as it would have been criminalised – have grown in to adults with a lessened sense of what is wrong and right, those ‘adults’ I referred to before will be on their way to their graves. Leaving behind me and my generation to pick up the pieces of a society filled with young adults who have that lessened sense of morality. Thanks so much, well done.

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    Rating: 4.6/5 (34 votes cast)
  10. AriaNZ says:

    Restraining is like Adult Bondage. So if a Adult goes and restrains a Adult, they can because its good enough for a child.

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    Rating: 2.4/5 (8 votes cast)
  11. Lambda09a says:

    It should NOT be against the law to smack your children. Parents should have the right to choose how they discipline their own children. If you believe in smacking, then you should be able to smack your children, if you don’t then don’t. I do NOT stand for child abuse at all, like all normal human beings, but why can’t I smack my children out of love if that’s how I believe how it should be done. Why should someone else tell me how I must raise my children. I was smacked as a child and I never felt unloved or abused and hate the fact that it’s now against the law to raise my own children in the ways that I believe. It’s just not right.

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    Rating: 4.4/5 (36 votes cast)
  12. Moera says:

    How to you discipline a child who has learned how to manipulate the system??

    How do you discipline a child who threatens an adult with ‘police’ or ‘physical violence’ in an effort to say ‘no, you can’t do that’?

    The anti smacking referendum takes away a parents perogative to discipline ‘their’ child. It’s gives this child access and opportunity to have that parent prosecuted, ignoring the facts of ‘who was in the right’ and ‘who was in the wrong’.

    It’s neither good nor productive to take away the ‘rights’ of a GOOD parent to discipline their child.

    Unfortunately, there is family or generational cycle of verbal, mental as well as physical abuse been committed on childen everyday and is a rampant problem that happens behind closed doors which needs to be addressed quickly. However, this shouldn’t be done at the expense of those NZders who are productive parents within the home.

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    Rating: 4.6/5 (24 votes cast)

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