Making smacking legal again would be a regression in child safety, a Tauranga social services agency says.

"We've got to be facing up to abuse and doing everything we can to stop it," said Tauranga Living Without Violence manager Mary Beresford-Jones.

The comments follow Conservative Party leader Colin Craig's admission yesterday he smacks his children if they misbehave and that he would seek to have the so-called anti-smacking law repealed if his party formed a coalition with National after this year's general election.

The legislation came into effect in 2007, removing the defence of "reasonable force" for parents prosecuted for assaulting their children, although police have the discretion not to prosecute when it is considered to be so minor that there is no public interest in prosecuting.


There have been just eight prosecutions for smacking since the June 2007 law change.

Child Youth and Family received 5871 child abuse notifications in Tauranga in the year to June - of which 838 were substantiated cases of abuse.

The number of notifications and substantiated cases were up from the previous year.

Ms Jones said she understood more abusive parents were being prosecuted because the 2007 amendment gave the legal system the necessary "teeth" to prosecute.

That, along with increased community reporting of family violence, went some way to explaining why CYF statistics had risen.

"The legislation is working really well, it's doing what it set out to do."

Most Western countries already had similar child protection legislation in place before New Zealand, she said.

"Children are our taonga, they're to be treasured and nurtured and supported - there's a lot of ways to discipline children."

If the law was repealed, it would not put New Zealand in a good light internationally, she said.

Mr Craig said Curia Market Research of 1000 respondents last year asked whether the law should be changed to smacking being a reasonable form of correction, with 77 per cent agreeing.

He conceded that did not necessarily mean the same numbers of parents were ignoring the law and smacking their children.

The physical discipline of his own children was technically against the law if police saw it in the public interest to prosecute, he said.

His discipline mostly consisted of "a flick of a finger on the back of a knuckle", which hurt "for a moment".

Police were satisfied that Mr Craig's comments on radio yesterday did not "amount to disclosure of an offence".

"Police do not intend being drawn into a political debate on this issue in an election year."

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said the research showed "smackers" were most likely to be National and NZ First voters, followed by Labour voters.

"Politicians probably hoped that the opposition to the anti-smacking law would eventually disappear, but this poll simply reiterates that the law is being disrespected and flouted, is seen of no real value, and a political party who promises to fix the law will benefit in the polling booth," he said.