Retired cabinet minister John Falloon today called for a commission of inquiry into the breakdown of family life in New Zealand, using the murders of Wairarapa children as case studies.

Mr Falloon, a veteran of 19 years in parliament and a former agriculture and forestry minister, wants the government to commission senior Family Court judge Andrew Beecroft to conduct a commission of inquiry into "the whole spectrum of family life in New Zealand".

It could focus on the deaths of half-sisters Saliel Aplin and Olympia Jetson in Masterton and the murder of Featherston schoolgirl Coral Burrows.

"They are typical of what is happening around the country."

Mr Falloon said the role of Child Youth and Family in the two Wairarapa cases had been investigated "but nobody else has".

"We need to look at the cause and effects and what preventative steps can be taken. We are heading into an epidemic of violence partly caused by drugs and by society breakdown."

Mr Falloon said central government is the only body that can take the initiative and get a major inquiry under way.

"If I was still in cabinet that's what I would be pressing for," he said.

He said Child Youth and Family has been copping all the blame over recent violent child deaths but "it's not only them".

The commission of inquiry could look into the court system, police behaviour, other agencies and the way people interact in the community, he said.

"I am not calling for an inquisition, but a positive inquiry that can bring back confidence to the people with proper recommendations on what can be done to help family life."

Since retiring from parliament in late 1996, Mr Falloon has worked with children at risk as well as pursuing widespread business interests.