3 Dec 2019

Gun buyback data breach: PM Jacinda Ardern says no reason to undermine reforms

9:54 am on 3 December 2019

The data breach in the gun buyback registry should not be cause to undermine the firearms reforms, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The gun buyback website was shut down yesterday after police were alerted to a breach which allowed gun owners' names and addresses to be viewed. It was traced back to an online update from German software provider SAP, which has since apologised for the human error.

The mistake led to criticism from the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners and Privacy Foundation New Zealand, with the latter saying there had been too many privacy breaches by government agencies.

Just four months ago, sensitive information on hundreds of young people was exposed online by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

The prime minister told Morning Report it was important to keep things in perspective, and that a gun licensing system and registry of category E guns had been operating with no issues prior to the buyback scheme.

"We have one private provider who with one person had a human error that caused one other person to access information they shouldn't have. I think we should keep this in perspective, this should not undermine reforms that will protect New Zealanders.

"[SAP] have admitted full liability and taken responsibility and now I need to leave it for the police and them to work through those issues."

Police say only one person had accessed that information, but that's disputed by the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners who claim 19 people were able to access it.

Ms Ardern told Morning Report she had heard of the disputed claims and queried about it again.

"I asked the question again and was told again, that it is still their position that one person has accessed that information ... all I can do is relay the advice I've received that has come via the software provider."

She acknowledged the difference in the claims but asked those involved to act in good faith.

"Generally, the ability of this register to be utilised was done so that dealers could be a part of this buyback scheme to now perhaps share any information that would cause any people to have concern around the reliability of what's being done or to cast doubt more widely, I just really ask that those involved act in good faith.

"A mistake was made and they were given the wrong access.

"The fact that some have an opposition to the reforms that we are trying to undertake more broadly, not necessarily the buyback which is what this involves but more broadly, is not a reason for us to stop doing important work to keep New Zealanders safe."

She said it was too early to say whether there would be any penalties as a result of the incident, but did not see any reason for any police member or the Police Minister to resign.

Samoa's measles epidemic

New Zealand has been offering support to Samoa while it grapples with a measles epidemic. As of last night, the death toll climbed to 53 - with children under the age of four making up the vast majority of the dead.

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa.

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Jenny Meyer

The pacific nation is racing to immunise its entire population and today authorities expanded the ages of those eligible for vaccinations.

Auckland University's Helen Petousis-Harris previously said Samoa had an immunisation rate as low as 31 percent, and labelled it as having one of the worst herd immunity levels in the world.

Last night, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters told Checkpoint that New Zealand "offered help weeks ago and waited for the response from the Samoan government".

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters during a stand-up interview after attending a Police cadet graduation 21 November 2019.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

"We didn't hear back until some time later, but the moment we did, we virtually had our medical teams ready to go."

However, he would not say if Samoa acted quickly enough on dealing with the measles outbreak.

Ms Ardern told Morning Report that her understanding was that authorities had been in close contact with Samoa "all the way through."

"As of last night we have 54 New Zealand medical professionals in Samoa as we speak, we have been providing vaccinations at their request, providing the facilities to keep their vaccinations chilled, providing medical equipment to help contain, and also ensure they have the appropriate supplies, doing everything we can."

She said this was not the right time to be making judgements over whether the Samoan government did or did not act fast enough.

"What I need to ensure is that we are available, that offers are being made, that we have the facilities ready to go, that we have people ready to go and importantly vaccinations.

"We've been able to meet all their requests to date, and also funded additional vaccinations that have been purchased by UNICEF as well."

Asked whether she backed Mr Peters' personal view that vaccination be compulsory in New Zealand, she said she was pro-vaccination but didn't support forcing people to do it.

"We've got to get up to herd immunity and that's 95 percent, that's when we know we can ensure that people are safe and so that has to be our aspiration. We do not have a position as a government in support of compulsory vaccination, but actually the advice I have received is we can reach the levels we need without measures like [that].

"But again those who take the irresponsible view of not vaccinating and encouraging others not to, I ask them to look very closely at the devastation we are seeing currently as a result of people who are sending messages like that, of course that's not the only reason we don't have vaccination but it exists."

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