Regional | Bay of Plenty

Family violence: Only half of the thousands of calls end up in any charges in the Bay of Plenty

Women being run over by vehicles and knocked out, pregnant women being beaten and teens assaulting their parents.

These are just some of the examples of the thousands of family violence callouts received last year—an average of 46 per day in the region.

Those on the frontlines are calling for everyone to learn the signs of family violence and take care of each other.

Police were called to 12,431 family harm incidents—with and without offenses—in the Bay of Plenty this year to September, compared to 13,224 for the entire year five years ago, figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Acts show.

The callouts increased by more than 27 per cent between 2018 and 2022, with last year seeing nearly 16,885 callouts—an average of 46 a day.

Half ended without any criminal charge.

The incidents, which increased each year, related to an “episode” of family harm that police responded to and investigated.

The police areas included Rotorua, Western and Eastern Bay of Plenty and Taupō, which were broken down into police stations in each area.

In the Western Bay of Plenty, they were called to 4313 incidents—with and without charges—this year to September, up from 4573 for the entire year five years ago.

The number of callouts increased by more than 27 per cent between 2018 and 2022, with last year seeing nearly 5534 callouts—an average of 15 a day.

Half ended without any criminal charge.

These included Tauranga, Katikati, Mount Maunganui, Te Puke, Pāpāmoa and Tauranga South police stations.

As part of the official information released, police said it made changes to the way it responded to family harm since 2018 which included the reporting and recording of family harm, and practices applied when attending.

It stated that while police were identifying more offences, the family violence sector response was to provide a more holistic approach to victims and whānau affected.

This included working with partner agencies to provide support through counselling, mediation, and financial support, as well as working through a restorative justice process within the judicial system.

Tauranga Women’s Refuge manager Hazel Hape said “The only thing we haven’t seen is a murder”.

They had supported women who had been sexually assaulted, knocked out, run over by vehicles, thrown down stairs, and isolated.

Gaslighting and psychological and mental abuse were also common.

These included being controlling, blatantly lying, or making a partner feel stupid or useless.

The refuge was part of a group of 15 NGO specialist first responders in Tauranga working with police. They called after most of the reports to offer advice, information and support.

She said the past three years had been busy, especially with the “accumulated effect and trauma” of Covid 19.

She said there were other factors behind the statistics including trends of elder abuse, suicide attempts, homelessness, mental health, teenage violence towards parents, ongoing isolation, firearms, alcohol, protection orders, sexual assault, and pregnant mums being assaulted.

At the centre of this were children who were “the silent passengers in the horror story”, involving abuse by someone who is supposed to love them and the adult they’re abusing.

Children came in anxious, distressed, clingy, tearful, upset and agitated, with some wetting the bed and not being able to sleep. .

She said their role was to respond with aroha and awhi and wrap around women and children.

She said while there was a high level of reporting there was also a high number of people telling the wrap-around service to “get lost”.

“People have to choose to engage.”

She said there were a range of reasons people may not follow up with any charges, like fearing ending up in court, children being taken away, costs, impacts on employment, judgement, people finding out and not feeling like they could speak out.

Hape said with what they saw, the majority of perpetrators were men, and there was a “dire lack” of timely support, either preventatively or after they’ve offended. She said abusers needed support in dealing with their anger, violence and trauma.

She said there needed to be preventative and early intervention in schools and families about gendered roles and responsibilities, positive and healthy relationships, and what a non-violent family looks like.

“I believe every person has the potential to choose to live violence-free, but ... it takes a village to raise healthy, strong, and violence-free young people and adults.”

Anecdotally, Christmas day was quiet but violence escalated in the days leading up to and following New Year’s Eve.

She said it was important families did things in moderation, including celebrating and partying.

“Take care of each other and your loved ones ... lay down your arms, and be loving towards each other.”

Hape urged people to call the crisis line if they’re at risk or the police if it’s an emergency.

Te Wahi Whakaora Rotorua and District Women’s Refuge manager Julie Gibbs estimated there was about 70 per cent of unreported domestic abuse in Rotorua, with family violence a “huge” problem in the city.

Speaking to the lack of charges, she said abusers were “often clever” in the way they respond to the police.

She said they were preparing for “even higher” demand in the usually busy holiday period, with the cost of living adding fuel to “already unsafe” situations.

“Unfortunately, it is not possible for victims to modify their behaviour to prevent all abuse and shouldn’t be their responsibility to manage it.”

Western Bay of Plenty Area Prevention Manager Inspector Zane Smith said additional emotional and financial stress and increased alcohol during the holiday period exacerbated existing patterns of physical and emotional abuse.

He said alcohol and drug abuse were strong factors in the increase in calls over time.

Other factors included more willingness to report family harm, a better understanding of it and the impacts, changing family dynamics, and population numbers.

He said filing charges was not the only way to help victims, and while people needed to be held accountable for criminal offending, “alternative actions” were sometimes more appropriate.

He said there was a multi-agency approach to ensure the immediate safety of victims and whānau and to work with perpetrators to prevent further violence.

He said police had “many tools” including Police Safety Orders, resolution programs, and referrals to support organisations.

What are the signs someone is struggling?

Police urged people to become familiar with the signs of family harm.

Smith said there were many ways people could show signs they’re struggling with their mental health.

This included feeling worried or anxious, weight changes, sleep irregularities, drug or alcohol abuse, or changes in frequency of using drugs or alcohol.

It could also be behavioural changes, emotional outbursts, becoming quiet or withdrawn, mania episodes, neglect, disinterest, appearance changes, high-risk behaviour, or bizarre or strange behaviours not typical to the person.


If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

If you’re in danger now:

  • Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.
  • Run outside and head for where there are other people.
  • Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
  • Take the children with you.
  • Don’t stop to get anything else.
  • If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

Cira Olivier is a social issues and breaking news reporter for NZME Bay of Plenty. She has been a journalist since 2019.