Organisers of a petition to force a smacking referendum have been dealt a major blow after failing to gather enough signatures.
They now have two more months to collect enough signatures.
The petition needed 280,275 signatures to force a referendum but fell short after a number were excluded because they were either illegible, the signatory's date of birth could not be confirmed, or involved people who signed multiple times.
In a statement, the Office of the Clerk said an audit of signatures found that no more than 269,500 were eligible. That is a shortfall of about 15,500 signatures.
Family First spokesman Bob McCroskie appeared confident that any shortfall would easily be made up in the two months available.
He said politicians should respond now, not after the election, to the wishes of parents.
"The passing of the anti-smacking law by most of our politicians last year was an act of breathtaking arrogance which ignored the wishes of the very people who elected them to represent them in the making of our laws."
The petition by Sheryl Savill asked: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"
If the organisers succeed in collecting the signatures of 10 per cent of eligible electors they will be able to force a referendum at the next election, though its results will be non-binding.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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