New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants a referendum on smacking laws to go to the people.

Peters said in a speech on Friday the party's policy was to hold a referendum on the anti-smacking law.

"From the word go, we said this matter should go to a referendum with New Zealand people who are far more reliable and trustworthy on these matters, rather than a bunch of temporarily empowered parliamentarians," he told Newstalk ZB.

"I said very clearly that we've got young people running amok up here and around the country. They can't be touched. There's a hundred reasons given by sociologists and apologists for what's happening, but these people know what's wrong, know what they're doing is wrong, know they can't be touched, know there's no consequences."

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The anti-smacking bill was introduced in 2007.

"What's happened since then has been an explosion in violence towards children, the very antithesis of what these people argued would happen," Peters said.

The party's policy was to put the matter to the people and repeal the law, he said.