Former police officer and National government minister Chester Borrows will lead an advisory group tasked with helping reform the criminal justice system.

Justice Minister Andrew Little today announced the establishment of the Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group - Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora to work alongside justice sector agencies on criminal justice reform.

Borrows, a former courts and associate justice minister under the previous National Government, will chair the group.

Victims' advocate Ruth Money, human rights lawyer Julia Whaipooti, Independent Police Conduct Authority general manager Warren Young, psychologist Tony Ward, sociologist Tracey McIntosh, law academic Carwyn Jones and sociologist Jarrod Gilbert are also on the group.


"New Zealand needs less offending, less re-offending, and fewer victims of crime. We can't continue to have one of the highest re-offending rates in the OECD," Little said.

"Hāpaitia Te Oranga Tangata is about having the guts to look honestly at our slide towards an American-style justice system, and fixing things so we can have safer Kiwi communities."

Borrows has always wanted to work in the justice sector following his retirement as Whanganui's MP in 2017.

"Obviously it's an area that I've worked in and want to continue to work in," he said.

"At the moment I really just want to focus on having a conversation with the public around this sort of stuff and to try and have a conversation with people who are connected to the justice sector."

People tended to think justice was easy, that you locked people up "give them bread and water and throw away the key", he said.

"Then you realise these people are all going to come out one day and be living in a street near you. So they need to come out in better nick than when they went in."

Borrows said the country needed to be smart, not tough on crime but for that to happen the politics needed to be taken out of the debate.


"I think a big chunk of the public would consider themselves to be tough on crime and the big challenge is to put some information in front of them and get them to think about the issues," he said.

"What we've had in the past is we've had evidence based suggestions and they've run up against emotive responses and it's very difficult to have a conversation like that."

Borrows said a lot was working well in justice but a lot of it was "inefficient and not particularly safe".

"Not many people in the New Zealand public actually have confidence that the justice system is working."

Little also confirmed the dates of his criminal justice summit, Hāpaitia Te Oranga Tangata, the Safe and Effective Justice Programme - August 20-22.

"The summit will bring together victims, victims' advocates, front-line workers with different backgrounds and experience in the criminal justice system, and experts in criminal justice," Little said.

"This Government believes New Zealand should be the best place in the world to live and raise a family. Our justice system must play its part in that.

"We are determined to confront the challenges with a hope and belief that we can and should do better for whānau and communities today, and for future generations."

Borrows, a police officer before turning to politics, was found not guilty of a careless driving charge following a two-day trial in Whanganui in 2017.

The charge came after the car he was driving struck the foot of a protester as he was leaving a breakfast at the Collegiate Motor Inn in Whanganui's Liverpool St with Minister Paula Bennett on March 22, 2016.

The court found Borrows was not driving in a careless manner.