Parliament passed a Bill under urgency to increase the cap on the number of coroners in New Zealand from 20 to 22 full time equivalents (FTEs) but ACT’s Justice Spokesperson Nicole McKee says that won’t address the rising backlog of coroner cases needing to be heard.
“The original cap of 20 coroners at any one time was introduced when the population was at 4.2 million. Now that our population count is at nearly 5.1 million the equivalent number of coroners needed should be 24.4 FTEs.
"ACT submitted a tabled amendment to the law seeking for the cap to be raised to 30 coroner FTEs to take into account the expected rise in population. This was voted down by Labour during the committee stage of the Bill.
“The Government had more work to do in this space and it is not supporting families or the justice system by failing to address the backlog which is expected to rise over the next three years.
“If coroners are under pressure they are less likely to hold inquiries or inquests to give families much needed answers about the deaths of their loved ones.
"Statistics already show that inquests decreased from one in every four cases in 2012 to one in every 13 cases in 2017. An enquiry has been averaging 877 days to complete with inquests averaging 1,451 days.
“These waits prolong the agony and grief of those wanting answers. Increasing the cap by two coroners will still leave families grieving for longer.
“It is disappointing the Government has not used foresight to anticipate the needs of our communities and bury its head in the sand when requested to increase the cap further making the urgent Bill fit for purpose.”