15 May 2013

Hand-held lasers to be restricted

9:56 pm on 15 May 2013

Powerful hand-held lasers are to be banned from general use in New Zealand to combat a rise in strikes on planes.

The Government is to restrict the import, sale and supply of laser pointers as strikes on planes have soared from three in 2006 to 102 last year.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said on Wednesday that powerful laser pointers are cheap and easy to get and can be sold or supplied with little information about safe use.

Ms Goodhew said the new regulations would restrict their use to people with a legitimate purpose such as astronomers, researchers and the Defence Force.

The restrictions would not cover low-power laser pointers used as presentation aids or those used with survey instruments or rifle sights.

The regulations are expected to take effect by the end of this year.

The Airline Pilots' Association says the new restrictions on the sale and supply of laser pointers will make the skies safer, but more needs to be done.

President Glen Kenny said the change is a good start, but he hoped that National MP Cam Calder's bill to publicly ban laser pointers passes.

"We still need to have legislation that will enable police to be able to confiscate these items ... This legislation, we believe, will take care of the supply, but we still need some sort of legislation to address what's still in circulation in the country."

Mr Kenny said nevertheless, pilots can feel safer knowing that the Government is considering taking powerful laser pointers out of circulation.

However, electronics importer Ross Fitzgerald believes the proposed restrictions would be difficult to enforce and Customs may have to open and test every single laser pointer, as is the case in Australia.

Mr Fitzgerald said his company would stop supplying them if the regulations are introduced.