Around 66,000 children are at family violence incidents attended by police each year.

Many of those children will not receive counselling or other support, despite the long-term problems witnessing such violence and distress is known to cause.

Starting today, a new family violence pilot in Christchurch will handle police referrals, and focus on all family members - perpetrators and victims, including children who may not be physically abused.

The roughly 175 reports of family violence each week in the city will be responded to by an inter-agency team, operating seven days a week.


Staff from police, Child Youth and Family, Corrections, the Ministry of Health, NGOs and Maori service providers will assess each case.

The daily meetings will triage cases according to high, medium or low risk, with options available including child counselling, offender support, alcohol or drug interventions, parenting programmes and employment and budgeting support.

If successful, the pilot will be rolled out nationally.

Justice Minister Amy Adams told the Herald she was very confident that it will work.

"I have a huge amount of belief in the difference that the programme will make. It's not something that's been dreamt up -- we are taking the best of what we are doing in New Zealand, the best of what has been working overseas.

"There is a disturbingly high level of family violence that police respond to -- it is 42 per cent of their daily activity. We need to know that when they are getting called out the system can swing into action and respond as effectively as possible, so we do everything we can to minimise the need to go back."

By December the first evaluation report on the Christchurch pilot will be completed, along with advice on a national roll-out. The second evaluation report will be delivered at the end of July next year.

Labour's spokeswoman on sexual and family violence, Poto Williams, also MP for Christchurch East, said she would be keeping a close watch on the pilot, and had concerns including that NGOs and other groups wouldn't have enough influence.


But the apparent desire to put more focus on children was positive.

"It's always been my contention that children have been the invisible victims in family violence, and the figure of 66,000 identified is probably a little light."

Before becoming MP for Christchurch East at the last election, Ms Williams was chief executive of Western Refuge and later manager of Waves Trust, both based in Henderson.

"[We] identified 3500 children over the course of a year in our little catchment alone that were in a home where violence was present when police were called out. Of that 3500, only 55 kids actually received any therapy," she said.

"Pilots always attract a lot of money because people want them to succeed ... when it comes to implementation and roll out of the actual model, that's when the crunch happens. What will be telling is whether it will be resourced to the same kind of level."

New Zealand has the highest rate of intimate partner violence in the OECD, with 47 per cent of all homicides being family violence-related.


• 66,251 children were at family violence incidents attended by police officers last year.

• In Christchurch those cases will from today be covered by a new pilot programme. All police referrals will go to an inter-agency team, operating seven days a week, which will decide a response based on a risk assessment.