The repeal of Section 59 from the Crimes Act in New Zealand has only 20% of New Zealanders opposing it. The often dubbed “anti-smacking law” removed the right for adults to use “reasonable force” to discipline their children.

43% of those surveyed by UMR on behalf of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner responded positively to the anti-smacking law, 28% opposed; the rest were neutral. However, when asked the question, “Should children be entitled to the same protection from assault as adults?”, 80% said that they should. Lobby group Family First NZ is dismayed at this figure. National Director Bob McCoskrie said, “This figure should be 100%. But the Children’s Commissioner has simply caused confusion by misrepresenting the effect of the law and the difference between assault and a light smack.”

Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 is fairly well known by the public, but specifics weren’t as well publicised. Perhaps this is why there has been a citizens’ initiated referenda (well over 200,000 eligible voters signed a petition supporting smacking). Children’s Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro said, “Many parents are ready to move on and find positive ways of parenting that involve discipline without violence, so there needs to be support for that with information and education.”

In 1993 a survey was conducted around the theme, “is it alright to use physical punishment with children” which resulted in 87% agreeing. This year, it is at a recorded 58%.

The referendum open to all eligible New Zealand voters will be held in August next year via postal vote.

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