Changes to the Domestic Violence Act are being hailed as a "step forward" by some in Rotorua who work with the perpetrators and victims of violence.

New family violence offences including assault on a family member will be created as part of more than 50 changes to the Domestic Violence Act announced by Prime Minister John Key today.

Rotorua's Louise Nicholas, a campaigner for the rights of victims of sexual violence, was at the announcement in Wellington.

"Finally it's happening. Speaking with minister Amy Adams afterwards it's obvious it's not going to happen overnight, but it will happen.

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"More changes will probably need to happen but it's a massive step forward. I'm thankful this incentive has happened."

She said she still had some issues with the family court and its processes taking too long, but other than that she saw the changes as "fantastic".

Former chief executive of the Women's Refuge and Rotorua district councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait was also at the announcement.

"It's very obvious that the government is taking domestic violence very seriously and they are wanting something done about it.

"The government can't be the sole answer to domestic violence, each and every one of us need to work on these areas.

"Perpetrators need help as well. Victims need to get support a lot earlier. I think this change will do that.

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"The gap to me was the roles that the families can play, we need to work on the families, families have to be strengthened through the community.

"I did feel we are certainly on to something good, we have to be in there for the long haul," she said.

Rotorua area prevention manager Inspector Stuart Nightingale said it was a significant move to help police keep families safe.

"Any incentive that will help our victims to be safe and protected, especially children, is warmly received and welcomed in my view.

"It's our goal in Rotorua to reduce family violence. I'm very much a believer in perpetrators being made accountable, this is high on our radar in Rotorua.

"No doubt the new changes will become used by police very quickly, what I have read so far, it fits in very well.

"Every city in New Zealand has a problem with domestic violence, because any domestic violence is a problem."

The changes come after nearly 500 detailed submissions from individuals and groups were received after the Government released a discussion document last August.

New Zealand has the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence in the developed world.

Police last year attended about 110,000 domestic violence incidents - one every five and a half minutes.

They estimated that about 80 per cent of incidents were not reported, meaning about 525,000 incidents likely occurred.

They also said about 80 per cent of incidents were witnessed by children.

Changes include:

• Creating new offences of non-fatal strangulation, coercion to marry, and assault on a family member.
• Making the safety of victims a principal consideration in all bail decisions, and at the centre of parenting and property orders.
• Flagging all family violence offences on criminal records. This will be done so the courts and police know when a person has such a history.

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz