Turnout was low, the New Zealand Herald reported. Only 54 percent of voters expressed their opinion on the question: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offense in New Zealand?"
Almost nine out of 10, 88.1 percent, said it should not be, while 11.9 percent said it should.
Prime Minister John Key, who was on an official visit in Australia, said the Cabinet would discuss the law on Monday and whether it needs to be changed. Under former Prime Minister Helen Clark, the government banned spanking while giving police the discretion to ignore "inconsequential" parental force.
"They don't want good parents to be criminalized for a light smack," Key said of the referendum.
Police have brought only one prosecution under the current law, and it was later dropped for lack of evidence.