Anyone intentionally hurting a first responder would face a minimum of six months' jail under a new member's bill that has broad parliamentary support - for now.
The Protection for First Responders and Prison Officers Bill, under New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball, may get its first reading in Parliament today, depending on the progress of other bills on the Order Paper.
The bill would create a new offence under the Crimes Act to protect first responders, defined as police, emergency health and fire service staff, and prison officers.
Injuring them with intent would see a mandatory prison term of at least six months - unless manifestly unjust. The maximum prison term would be 10 years.
The bill would also add first responders to the current charge of assault against a constable, prison officer, or traffic officer under the Summary Offences Act, which carries a maximum penalty of six months' jail or a $4000 fine.
The bill has the support of Labour, the Greens and the National Party, though they all have reservations about a mandatory minimum sentence.
A mandatory sentence would impact judicial discretion in a similar way to the three strikes law, which Labour and the Greens wanted to repeal but were unable to because NZ First supported it.
Ball said assaults on first responders had grown in the past decade.
"We need to draw a line in the sand. We need to protect the protectors. It is clear a deterrent is needed."
He said the terrorist attacks in Christchurch highlighted the importance of the work of first responders.
"It also highlights the very risky situations they can find themselves in when protecting us from harm. They need all the support and help they can get from the law."
Justice Minister Andrew Little said Labour would support the bill to select committee, but was lukewarm on any measure that impacted judicial discretion.
"We prefer the judicial process to take its course, and for there to be guidelines and judges to evaluate what is appropriate in individual circumstances.
"That's not a reason to discount the whole piece of legislation right now. It's a good reason to have a close look at it."
National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell said first responders were in a particularly vulnerable line of work.
"They're dealing with people in high-stress situations who are often under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"We'll support this through to select committee for further consideration, though we do have some questions around mandatory minimum sentencing.
"Something the select committee should consider is the definition of first responders, as emergency department nurses and doctors are often exposed to the same risks."
The bill could progress beyond the first reading with only the support of one other party.
NZ First and National have worked together before on law and order issues, scuppering Labour's plan to repeal the three strikes legislation and supporting a bill for tougher sentences on suppliers of synthetic drugs, which was set to pass before it was usurped by Government policy.