In the wake of increasing serious crime people are turning their homes into fortresses and the nation is fearful, according to Sensible Sentencing Trust Tauranga spokesman Ken Evans.
Evans was responding to figures released by National leader Simon Bridges who said the number of cases before the courts involving serious harm had increased by 25 per cent since the election in 2017.
In October, 2017, Tauranga had 506 active serious harm cases, according to Ministry of Justice figures. By April 2018, that increased to 540 and to 631 in April this year.
Nationally, cases of serious harm were up 25 per cent, with figures showing the number of serious harm cases before the courts in October 2017 was 17,189, which steadily increased last year to 19,554 in December, and rose to 21,645 in April 2019.
Evans, 80, described the numbers as "absolutely devastating".
"This Government claimed it was going to clamp down on crime. What's even more devastating is that this is serious crime meaning there are that many more victims who have suffered serious harm."
Saying he could only speculate on the reason for the increase, Evans said when he was a young man, one national murder a year was a major happening.
Evans said society had gone backwards. "We have lost discipline in the home and discipline at school. We have also lost deterrents. People used to be hanged for taking a life.
"Once you lose the deterrent then there is social dysfunction."
Waikato Bay of Plenty New Zealand Law Society Council member Rita Nabney believed there were a number of contributing factors to the increase in serious violence.
"The use of methamphetamine has to be first on the list," Nabney said. "It is an expensive drug so when people have gone through their own assets, they look for others.
"As well as violent crimes committed by people on methamphetamine, there is also the associated crimes of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary – both are serious crimes."
Nabney said New Zealand had not managed to get on top of the drug and offending as a result of methamphetamine use had got out of hand.
"I also think synthetics and cannabis use, particularly with younger people, has contributed to the increase. Statistics show psychotic [and often violent] episodes come as a result of people with mental health issues using these drugs.
"It is a good reason we should not be advocating to lessen existing laws."
Another reason for the increase, according to Nabney, was people being sent back to New Zealand after committing serious crime in Australia.
"... There's a good chance you won't get a job here. I'm not sure what supports are in place for these people but to come back and have no job and often no family, is a recipe for disaster."
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated there were more than 300 murders a year in New Zealand. Police figures show 518 people were murdered between 2007 and 2017. Provisional figures show 35 people were murdered last year.