A national summit on family violence has been slammed by a victim advocacy group as "too little, too late" and an "empty gesture" by politicians ahead of the general election.

Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced they were hosting the summit in Wellington on June 7.

"We know that family violence is a significant and complex issue in New Zealand, with police responding to an incident every five minutes," Adams said this week.

"That's why I've made helping to reduce family violence my core priority."


Adams said that every day across New Zealand there were "large numbers of people working hard to combat this horrific form of abuse".

"The Family Violence Summit will bring together people from the sector to continue the conversation around how we break the pattern of family violence and reduce the harm."

She said the summit aimed to support the work already under way as part of the Government's family violence reforms, which includes the introduction of the Family and Whanau Violence Legislation Bill to overhaul the Domestic Violence Act and strengthen family violence laws.

Tolley said family violence had a "devastating impact on individuals, families and communities" and cost the country more than $4 billion per year.

"Agency and non-government organisation responses are typically siloed and difficult for people to navigate between," she said.

"The Family Violence Summit will aim to contribute to a more joined-up sector."

Guests will come from a broad cross-section of groups involved in combating family violence, including NGOs, support workers, victims and former perpetrators.

However, new family violence advocacy group Backbone Collective slammed the summit.


Founder Deborah Mackenzie said it was an "empty gesture" ahead of the election in September, "too little too late" and "a whitewash".

She claimed the government was simply "paying lip service" by holding the summit.

And, it added insult to injury as it failed "to recognise the voices of women and children who have already been critically failed by the system", Mackenzie said.

"Why is the summit being held three months before a general election? This government has been in power for nearly nine years," Mackenzie questioned.

"All indications are that the system that is supposed to keep women who experience violence and abuse safe, and help them rebuild their lives, is more broken, more harmful and more abusive towards women than it was nine years ago.

"More talking won't change that."

Mackenzie said anonymous surveys by Backbone, which launched this month, showed that the Family Court was the highest ranking issue that women wanted highlighted.

Surveys showed that there was "a lack of information available to help women navigate the system, understand who to seek help from, understand their experience of violence and abuse".

"Women and their children are forced to endure years of mental anguish and financial ruin, particularly in the Family Court system even if the ex-partner has been violent towards them," said Mackenzie.

"The violence and abuse is ignored in the decision making. There is a gaping hole in the picture which no one acknowledges and the woman and her children are falling into it."

Backbone co-founder Ruth Herbert said many women felt they were battling the court system.

"And that it leaves them feeling unsafe and re-traumatised," Herbert said.

"Others tell us that they returned to the abuser as keeping themselves and their children safe and rebuilding their lives was just too hard."

Mackenzie and Herbert said there was a better way to address New Zealand's violence against women problem.

"Our message is that the government and those working in the sector need to listen to what women have to say about how the system should respond when they experience violence and abuse," Herbert said.

"Since our launch two weeks ago we have had more than 450 women sign up who are desperate to tell us how bad the system is and how much worse their situation is if they leave their abusive partner, or reach out for help or justice regarding their experience of violence and abuse."

The Backbone founders, who aim to act as a watchdog over the Family Court and regularly survey women on their experiences, feared the summit was "likely to be a closed shop that excludes the actual users of the system who could give the best insights about where the system is failing the most to protect women and children".

They said the summit was an "empty gesture ahead of the election and a waste of taxpayers' money".

"How much money will be spent on organising, promoting and hosting this summit? And couldn't it be better spent on supporting women and children to be safe?

"This is putting lipstick on a pig in our view."

Adams hit back at Backbone's comments, saying the Government had been working on the issue for years.

The summit was far from a flash-in-the-pan idea.

"We've been working with the sector for years on how the system could work better for those dealing with family violence, and Backbone hasn't been part of that as they are a new organisation," she said.

"Through our consultation over the past few years we've been hearing how important it is for government agencies to continue to listen to and engage with victims, NGOs and those on the frontline, which is why we're holding a summit, and so I'm surprised to be criticised for doing exactly that.

"Over the past 18 months the Government has been undertaking major reforms of family violence which has been recognised by all the major players."

"The comments overlook the fact that the Government introduced an overhaul of family violence laws last week, have a Ministerial Group on family and sexual violence that brings together 16 portfolios to work together, are reforming CYFs into the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, set up a disclosure scheme for those concerned about their partners, launched a nationwide home safety service which is helping 1000 victims stay safe, and a whole suite of other initiatives to reduce and prevent family violence."