Leaving A Child In A Car – New Zealand Law

Have you ever been in this situation: your baby is asleep and you need to get petrol, or go to the Dairy to get milk. So you drive up, jump out and quickly run in.

You do what you need to do and you can still see the car.

Have you done that? I have – several times.

The law here in New Zealand surrounding leaving children in the car clearly states:

“Young children must never be left alone in a house or vehicle – they need constant supervision. It is illegal to leave a child under the age of 14 years without reasonable provision for their care.”

So am I breaking the law by doing this?


I reached out to the New Zealand Police and asked for clarification on this; Senior Sergeant Christiaan Barnard responded with:

“It is always situationally dependant. For the circumstances you have outlined the relevant offence is section 10B of the Summary Offences Act 1981 – although there are more serious child neglect charges under section 195 of the Crimes Act 1961 (but there needs to be a major departure from the expected standard of care).

In terms of leaving a child in a vehicle while popping into a petrol station or dairy, there should not be an issue unless the time they spend unsupervised, or the conditions they have been left in, are unreasonable.

This means there will be lots of variables to consider including the age of the children, the length of time they were left, whether there were any hazards in their immediate environment, the availability of others to provide help, and any known dangers nearby. At either end of the spectrum there will be clear examples e.g. in most circumstances it would be fine to leave a 12-year-old in the vehicle for 15 minutes whereas the same could not be said for a 6-month-old. But, there will be situations where it is not so clear.

Parents need to exercise sound judgement when leaving their children unsupervised – and a good rule is that if they have any doubt, then they should not do it. “

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As Senior Sergeant Barnard said, ultimately it’s up to the parents to judge the situation. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your child even for 30 seconds then of course don’t.

But do know that if you are just popping in to get petrol, or to get milk or bread, it is not likely you will encounter an issue with the Police.

My tips are (and I’m sure this is just common sense):

  • Park as close to where you are going (Dairy / Petrol Station)
  • Make sure you can see your car
  • Make sure you are as quick as possible
  • If you think you will end up taking longer, just go get the kids (no harm in it!)

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Leaving A Child In A Car – New Zealand Law

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