Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the justice system in New Zealand is "heavily politicised", with politicians using emotive cases of crime to garner votes, instead of implementing lasting solutions.
The government is currently undertaking its Criminal Justice Summit, where Justice Minister Andrew Little is looking to address rising incarceration rates in New Zealand.
They are looking to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent within 15 years - it currently stands around the 10,500 mark, with about half of those in jail being Māori.
Mr Little told TVNZ 1's current affairs programme Q+A on Sunday "we've had thirty years of the auction of more penalties, more crime, more people in prison but it's not working - it's not making us safe".
National Party Leader Simon Bridges yesterday said he believes the outcome will likely be a softening of bail, remand and sentencing laws, and that he thinks it could lead to people being less safe.
Ms Ardern, speaking this morning on TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme, said New Zealand has experienced a "considerable increase in incarceration", which is "not necessarily matching any increase in crime".
New Zealand's prison population is among the highest in the OECD, and costs have continued to rise in the past 30 years - each prisoner costs the government about $100,000 per year.
"I don't think New Zealanders see themselves as a country that would have one of the highest incarceration rates in the western world, yet we do ... if our goal is safer communities, and it is, there are multiple ways we can achieve that," Ms Ardern said.
The issue of law and order has long been used politically, Ms Ardern said, by politicians looking for easy votes.
She said the previous government had made changes to the law in response to "tragic" crimes after public outcry, but those changes had unintended consequences.
"Changes were made to the law which I think outstripped by far, I think even the National Party's expectation," Ms Ardern said.
The Sentencing and Parole Reform Act was passed in 2010, colloquially known as the 'three strikes' law, which made denied parole to certain repeat offender and to offenders guilty of the worst murder, as well as imposing maximum terms of imprisonment on persistent repeat offenders.
It was opposed by Labour, the Green Party and the Māori party at the time.
Mr Little has already attempted to repeal the "three strikes" law enacted by the former government as a law and order measure, but that move was blocked by the government's coalition partner NZ First.
"If we want lasting change ... the way to do it is to try to take some of the politics out of it," Ms Ardern told Breakfast.