Possible overhaul for New Zealand's family justice system on the cards

New Zealand's family justice system could be in for a fresh overhaul after an independent panel, tasked with reviewing reforms made to the family justice system in 2014 under then-Justice Minister Judith Collins, claims some of those fixes created new problems.

"What I take from their work is a conclusion that the 2014 reforms, while it might have saved the Government a little bit of money, has actually created a range of other problems," Justice Minister Andrew Little told Newshub. 

Those reforms by the National-led Government were aimed at trying to resolve parenting disputes without going to court, and relying less on lawyers.

But Family Justice Review panel chair Rosslyn Noonan says the service is no longer fit for purpose.

"So it's ending up with children being even more damaged by the system, because of the extent to which it encourages conflict between family members," she says.

The panel has made 70 recommendations, including combining existing functions into a new, more accessible family justice service, Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau.

"It will provide for diversity, understand the impact of family violence, and be cohesive, collaborative, and cost-effective," Noonan says.

The proposed changes could cost an extra $60 million a year, but won't be a simple fix.

"And law reform alone will not address the myriad of issues that undermine confidence in the family justice services, nor reduce delays that can be so damaging for children and young people," Noonan says.

Little says the Government will take time to consider the extensive recommendations, and to develop a programme for change.