20 Mar 2023

Firearms advocates question police figures over licensing fees

11:26 am on 20 March 2023
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Some advocates are worried bureaucracy and changing attitudes are killing the future of part of the country's rural heritage. Photo: 123RF

Police say firearms owners need to shoulder the burden of a licensing system that costs the tax payer hundreds of millions of dollars. But firearms advocates say the figures are being pulled from thin air.

Firearms Licensing Fees have not risen in over 20 years.

Police estimated the costs behind a 10-year firearms license were now more than seven-and-a-half times the current fee of $126.50.

Effectively, the tax payer was covering a $200 million shortfall in the costs of administering the country's nearly 240,000 licence holders.

Hugh Devereux-Mack, of the Council of Licensed Firearm owners, said police were reaching into their members' pockets to fund excessive paperwork processes that did little to improve public safety.

"That screams inefficiency across the board. If police are charging this much, because they cannot figure out how to do it, then it needs to go to an independent agency that can clearly do the paperwork side much better than they can," Devereux-Mack said.

Over 6000 submissions were received during public consultation on the fees, which came to a close this month.

Respondents were asked to express their preference for an underwrite from a quarter to three quarters of costs, which would see the ten-year licence fee raised to up to $730.00.

New Zealand Police Association President Chris Cahill said police had not done a good job of gun licensing in the past.

Police conference in Wellington. Chris Cahill, NZ Police Association Minister.

New Zealand Police Association President Chris Cahill. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

He said police had a duty to improve the delivery of firearms licensing and the new fees would make that possible.

Cahill said he felt even the highest tier of cost recovery was still a reasonable proposition.

"They've been paying about $12 per year, which is patently ridiculous. It costs about $180 to register your dog a year. I think those figures, police are talking about, are much more realistic," Cahill said.

Jon Phillipps had represented New Zealand more than 15 times in 40 years of competitive shooting.

He said new fees, tacked on to police proposal, could see as much as $1500 added to the costs of anyone coming through the border to compete in events.

"NRANZ has an invitation out to come and shoot at the Ballinger Belt. The [Australian] national body has said that if those fees are imposed they will not be sending any shooters to New Zealand," Phillipps said.

But Phillipps said the inclusion of new fees for gun ranges, clubs were contrary to the intentions of the reforms.

"The safest place for people to learn how to use a firearm responsibly is the clubs and, if these clubs are no longer there, then where will they go? That's not making it safer for people," Phillipps said.

John Gill had been hunting and shooting for sport for over 60 years.

He was worried that bureaucracy and changing attitudes were killing the future of a much loved part of the country's rural heritage.

"I'm just a regular Kiwi guy who was brought up in a culture where the land provided opportunities for achieving food and having sport. I'd like to think that my grand children can continue that if they choose to," Gill said.

Submissions on the proposed fees would be analysed and put to Cabinet for discussion in the oncoming months.

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