Police Minister Judith Collins said the law has had harsh provisions to punish looters who exploited disasters such as earthquakes.

She was responding to calls by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters who wants a special crime written into the statute books after Christchurch police yesterday received three reports of burglaries during evacuations for a tsunami alert.

Collins said there was already a 10-year maximum jail term of 10 years for burglary.

The circumstances of a burglary could be already be considered, she said when asked if looting in disasters should be an aggravating factor.


"I'm sure those sorts of issues are taken into account by judges because of the seriousness of it," she told reporters at Parliament.

Peters said the offenders preyed on others during periods of extreme stress and tragedy.

"That anyone would rob others at a time of such crisis is evil, " he said.

"No decent society should allow cold-hearted individuals to get away with a slap on the wrist.

"They must be brought to justice and handed a sentence that will be a severe lesson to them and others."

Read more: House looted