Law, justice and government
New Zealand's rate of imprisonment is one of the world's highest and includes significant over-representation of Māori. Questions about how to fix criminal justice touch all other areas of our system of law and government: how best to keep people safe from family harm, who should get to make laws, and how the state should be made accountable to the people.
The current government began a programme of reform, holding a criminal justice summit and tasking a working group with planning an approach to reform. The prison population has exceeded 10,000 and continues to grow, driven largely by changes to bail laws in 2014 that remain in place.
Family justice and safety
There is political consensus that family violence is one of the most pressing social issues in NZ but parties differ about how the state can reduce violence and keep people safe. Some parties favour greater use of punishment and the criminal justice system. Others say violence is caused by a range of other problems in people's lives and better social services are part of the solution.
A government carries out its work through the public service. Parties are proposing to create new inquiries, ministries and commissions, and the disestablishment of others.
Access to justice is under threat as the cost of legal action grows and legal aid shrinks.
Local government is responsible for a great deal of public services people deal with on a day to day basis, like libraries and recreation facilities, as well as issues of national significance like resource management.
Front line police officers have increased under the current government, but some parties say more are needed. Police say the job is increasingly dangerous but trials of armed police were met with protest and anger from parts of the community.
Parliament and democracy
With two referendums on the ballot, some parties say NZ should have more direct democracy. Recent scandals have challenged public respect for democratic institutions and politicians remain among the least trusted professions in NZ.
Following the Christchurch terror attacks, the government responded quickly to tighten NZ's gun laws and undertake a nationwide buy-back of certain firearms from owners. But despite widespread support for these measures across parliament, many firearms owners say they have been unfairly scapegoated.