Murder rate at 25-year low

New Zealand's murder rate is at its lowest since 1986, according to statistics released today.

Police and Statistics New Zealand today released figures showing that recorded crime fell 5.8 per cent.

Crime dropped substantially in Canterbury, Southern and Tasman districts and generally throughout the country.

Crime in Canterbury dropped by 14.6 per cent, its lowest level in 16 years. There were 416,324 total recorded offences during the 12-month period which was 25,636 less than the previous year.

Canterbury acting district commander Inspector John Price said crime in the region dropped significantly after the February earthquake, which was consistent with international experience following natural disasters.

The biggest decrease nationally was related to the country's murder rate. The number of murders was half of that in the previous June 30 year, with 34 compared to 65.

Family violence, serious assaults and illicit drug offences also decreased.

But sexual assault and related offending and dangerous or negligent acts endangering people increased. Sexual assaults increased by 12.4 per cent while dangerous and negligent acts increased by 17.2 per cent.

"Thirty four murders in a year is the lowest since fiscal year crime statistics began being reported 25 years ago. This is good news in one sense but we all need to remember that one murder and one family member assaulted, whether it is a child or an adult, is one victim too many," Deputy Commissioner Viv Rickard said.

"The message has been heard loud and clear from all levels of society that violence, especially in the home, is not OK."

Rickard said he believed that innovative campaigns, a focus on family violence and support from partner agencies had made a positive difference.

The earthquake had "without a doubt" influenced the crime reductions in Canterbury, Rickard said.

"There was a noticeable drop in minor thefts after the February earthquake, and while it's hard to define the reason, I firmly believe that this was helped by so many people rallying to help their families, friends, neighbours and even strangers during very stressful times.

"We also had significant numbers of additional police working in the city providing reassurance patrols and supporting their colleagues. This high visibility and the fact that the CBD was so badly affected and cordoned off will also have been a contributing factor."

Crime also dropped substantially in other areas, with the Southern district experiencing a 10.3 per cent drop, Tasman 8.4, Central 6.7 and Waitemata 6.1.

The latest figures showed that:

* Homicide and related offending dropped 23.8 per cent

* 34 murders were recorded in the period compared with 65 the previous year

* Recorded family violence related offences dropped 3.1 per cent

* Acts intended to cause injury dropped 3.9 per cent

* Common assaults and serious assaults resulting in injury both fell 2.8 per cent.

* Serious assaults not resulting in injury reduced 7.5 per cent compared with the previous year. Within this group male assaults female dropped 11.4 per cent (from 4275 offences to 3787) and there was a 20 per cent drop in assaults on law enforcement officers (down from 1731 offences to 1384).

* Illicit drug offences reduced 14.7 per cent from 24,580 offences to 20,973. The largest reductions were in cannabis (down 14.6 per cent) and new drugs (mostly methamphetamine - down 19.4 per cent).

* Theft and related offending (which makes up more than 30 per cent of all recorded crime), burglary and robbery offending all dropped.

* Sexual assault and related offending increased 12.4 per cent

* Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons increased 17.2 per cent