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We asked the political parties the critical questions on many hunters minds pre-election.

The year 2020 has been a tumultuous one for the outdoors and hunting community, heralding changes to the firearms legislation through the second tranche of law changes now known as the Arms Legislation Act 2020. This rushed piece of legislation has resulted in changes that many would describe as disastrous, onerous and targeting law-abiding firearms owners instead of the criminal elements of society; throw into the mix ‘Tahrmageddon II’, COVID-19 lockdown through the Roar period, and the economic impact that lockdown will potentially have for years to come, and you could be forgiven for wanting 2020 to be over and done with!

However, there’s one more event looming and, in my opinion, the most important event of the year to happen yet … Elections 2020.

This is everyone’s opportunity to have their say and make their vote count – hopefully … but MMP is a complex and sometimes paradoxical form of government where strategic voting certainly has its place. Having the option to vote separately for both party and local candidate (in your electorate) gives an opportunity to strategically influence how many of the available 120 seats on offer some parties will be able to fill.

With this in mind, NZRod&Rifle put together a questionnaire that we forwarded to all the major parties for comment asking what each of their stances would be pre-election on important matters facing hunters, firearm owners, and outdoor enthusiasts.

We don’t wish to influence anyone’s vote, as voting is every New Zealander’s personal choice and right; the intent is to present to our readership the facts on each party’s stance so you can make informed decisions. Full responses from each party are below the summary table.

SUMMARY TABLE ACT GREEN PARTY LABOUR PARTY NATIONAL PARTY NEW CONSERVATIVE NEW ZEALAND FIRST
Is your party comfortable with the basic intent of the Arms Legislation Bill? NO DID NOT RESPOND YES NO NO YES
If elected, would your party repeal the Bill or make amendments to it? YES DID NOT RESPOND NO ADMENDMENT WOULD BE MADE YES TBC
If you repeal, would your party proceed with the registration of individual firearms as is currently proposed? NO DID NOT RESPOND N/A NO NO N/A
If elected, will your party be looking at relaxing the onerous rules applying to bona fide recreational firearms clubs and organisations and their shooting ranges? YES DID NOT RESPOND NO YES YES TBC
A review of the Firearms Bill is proposed to happen three years from now. We believe that this should be conducted by an independent authority. Do you agree, and why or why not? YES DID NOT RESPOND NO YES, WITH THE FIREARMS COMMUNITY IN A GENUINELY CONSULTATIVE MANNER. YES, SHOULD BE INDEPENDENT TBC
If elected, will your party make changes to the Bill that specifically target non law-abiding firearms holders and the criminal elements of our society? YES DID NOT RESPOND NO YES YES TBC
It is commonly acknowledged that the NZ hunting industry contributes in excess of $50M annually to the economy. Would you consider offering further protection to designated herds of special interest under the Wildlife Management Act and fully acknowledge their value to NZ history and heritage? YES DID NOT RESPOND SEE ANSWER BELOW TBC YES TBC
What will your party do to support the recreational hunting sector and other legitimate licensed firearms owners in improving the relationship with the non-hunting public and promoting the acceptance of hunting and sporting use of firearms as a safe and healthy pastime? RESPONSE BELOW DID NOT RESPOND RESPONSE BELOW RESPONSE BELOW RESPONSE BELOW RESPONSE BELOW

Is your party comfortable with the basic intent of the Arms Legislation Bill?

We are not comfortable with many aspects of the Arms Legislation Act 2020; it is an ideological disaster. The intent was to make New Zealand a safer place and address criminal misuse. It achieves neither. It will, in fact, make New Zealand a less safe place to live. It does nothing to address the 54% rise in gangs using guns. It will ensure the closure of some clubs and possibly ranges. Also, implementation dates for new laws are so varied the average person is rightly confused as to what they must comply with and by when.

If elected, would your party repeal the Bill or make amendments to it?

ACT’s priority is to repeal this year’s Arms Legislation Act, including the threat of a firearm register, then set about making the world’s best firearm laws that balance public safety, firearms control, and freedom. We would introduce another Bill that repeals the Arms Act 1983 – and all subsequent amendments – after the Royal Commission reports back. The new law will be delivered in the next parliamentary term and will be the envy of the world.

If you repeal, would your party proceed with the registration of individual firearms as is currently proposed?

We would not proceed with full registration of firearms, rather continue with the registration of restricted and prohibited firearms and weapons, albeit under a new and easily defined class system.

If elected, will your party be looking at relaxing the onerous rules applying to bona fide recreational firearms clubs and organisations and their shooting ranges?

ACT intends to draft a new piece of legislation with stakeholder consultation that replaces all previous Arms legislation dating back to 1983. There should be nothing onerous to compliance, but we must balance with the interests of public safety.

A review of the Firearms Bill is proposed to happen three years from now. We believe that this should be conducted by an independent authority. Do you agree, and why or why not?

By giving your party vote to ACT, we have every chance of working within a coalition to completely repeal the Arms Legislation Act. Should we not be able to form that coalition, we will be strongly advocating for an independent authority whose members have valid experience and expertise in firearms matters to make critical judgments and recommendations. It is important that those reviewing the law are not the same people implementing the law as that may allow a bias to creep in.

If elected, will your party make changes to the Bill that specifically target non law-abiding firearms holders and the criminal elements of our society?

ACT plans to also go after the gangs and their guns. Hitting them where it hurts: in their pockets. If police find illegal firearms at an unlawful operation like a meth lab, run by a gang, their assets will be seized. Currently, the Crown is required to establish a direct connection between the gang’s illicit money and their assets. ACT will make the illegal possession of a firearm a new threshold to freeze and seize. What is important here is that this policy will only be enforceable on gangs and their members and ONLY where an unlawful gang operation is taking place. There needs to be a clear line between criminal activity and genuine human error. Both will have consequences, but at the moment all licenced owners are being treated like criminals and that must stop.

It is commonly acknowledged that the NZ hunting industry contributes in excess of $50M annually to the economy. Would you consider offering further protection to designated herds of special interest under the Wildlife Management Act and fully acknowledge their value to NZ history and heritage?

Our Conservation and Hunting Policy will ensure that the Game Animal Council is empowered and resourced to achieve its statutory objectives. GAC have been given the mandate but not the resourcing; ACT plans to change that. ACT’s Hunting and Conservation Policy, found on our website, acknowledges the need to invest in preserving and managing our herds.

What will your party do to support the recreational hunting sector and other legitimate licensed firearms owners in improving the relationship with the non-hunting public and promoting the acceptance of hunting and sporting use of firearms as a safe and healthy pastime?

ACT’s leadership has seen 13 individuals with licences choosing to stand for the party. Some candidates are new; others are long time ACT members. We have backed the legitimate and legal use of firearms with David Seymour often being the lone voice in political debate on the issue of legitimate firearms ownership. We have started the separation by releasing our policy on gangs which emphasises addressing the criminal misuse alleviating the emotive attacks on the law-abiding. Media also needs to accurately differentiate between those legal and legitimate users versus criminal activity, and their positive input would help change the tide.


 

Did not submit responses to questions.


 

Is your party comfortable with the basic intent of the Arms Legislation Bill?

Yes.

If elected, would your party repeal the Bill or make amendments to it?

We have no plans to.

If you repeal, would your party proceed with the registration of individual firearms as is currently proposed?

Not applicable.

If elected, will your party be looking at relaxing the onerous rules applying to bona fide recreational firearms clubs and organisations and their shooting ranges?

No. We don’t believe they’re onerous.

A review of the Firearms Bill is proposed to happen three years from now. We believe that this should be conducted by an independent authority. Do you agree, and why or why not?

We do not agree, because we believe such a review can be adequately conducted through the existing parliamentary and public consultation processes.

If elected, will your party make changes to the Bill that specifically target non law-abiding firearms holders and the criminal elements of our society?

No.

It is commonly acknowledged that the NZ hunting industry contributes in excess of $50M annually to the economy. Would you consider offering further protection to designated herds of special interest under the Wildlife Management Act and fully acknowledge their value to NZ history and heritage?

There are a range of complex challenges between hunting and conservation and, as a party, we believe there’s a need to strike a reasonable balance. Labour will continue to engage with, and encourage greater dialogue from, a range of groups and organisations from across the hunting sector to ensure their interests are represented.

What will your party do to support the recreational hunting sector and other legitimate licensed firearms owners in improving the relationship with the non-hunting public and promoting the acceptance of hunting and sporting use of firearms as a safe and healthy pastime?

Labour recognises hunting is an important part of life for many New Zealanders, and in some cases a critical source of food. We also appreciate that sport and recreation have huge benefits for both individuals and communities. As a party, we’re committed to working alongside the sport and recreation sector, including hunters, to increase understanding and foster participation.


 

Is your party comfortable with the basic intent of the Arms Legislation Bill?

The Arms Legislation Bill wrongly focused far too much on additional rules, regulations and costs on law-abiding firearms owners, while doing little of substance to address genuine criminal behaviour and gangs.

We opposed it at introduction and at every stage in Parliament. We set out areas for improvement which the Government chose not to take up.

If elected, would your party repeal the Bill or make amendments to it?

We set out amendments to the Arms Legislation Bill at its introduction. If elected, we would amend the Arms Act (1983) to give effect to the changes that were not adopted.

  • Shooting clubs and ranges – only requiring notification to Police of a club or range’s existence, with Police to seek additional information about the club/range if needed.
  • Prohibited-firearms exemptions for pest control for farmers and rural landowners.
  • The change made by Government has a large fish hook in it that could readily be used to deny use of prohibited firearms for pest control, even where warranted.
  • Prohibited-firearms exemptions for sports shooting.
  • Removing the proposed register (on the basis that it cannot deliver its Government-stated objective of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals).
  • Removing or curtailing certain regulation-making powers (in line with a submission made by the Office of the Clerk).
  • A provision clarifying that a health practitioner may only notify Police if there is an immediate threat to individual or public safety.
  • An amendment to the fit and proper person test that would stop an applicant from having a licence approved if they had been convicted for an offence relating to violent, hateful or extremist speech or behaviour.

Plus:

  • Moving firearms policy and Arms Act administration responsibility from Police to another Government entity.

If you repeal, would your party proceed with the registration of individual firearms as is currently proposed?

We will remove the proposed register on the grounds that it cannot deliver its stated objective of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals.

Aside from overseas evidence showing that such registers don’t work, evidence from Australia to a parliamentary select committee in 2017 showed that in 90% of homicides involving a firearm, the firearm was not registered.

National is not opposed to a register per se, but any register would have to be able to meet clear, practical and useful objectives, be properly detailed in legislation, and designed in collaboration with the firearms community.

If elected, will your party be looking at relaxing the onerous rules applying to bona fide recreational firearms clubs and organisations and their shooting ranges?

Yes. The changes in the Arms Legislation Bill place onerous requirements and responsibilities on clubs/ranges and the officers of those entities. The extent of those requirements and responsibilities threaten the continued operation of clubs and ranges.

We will only require that clubs and ranges notify Police of their existence and general activities. It will be up to Police to identify and request additional information about a specific club or range, if needed.

A review of the Firearms Bill is proposed to happen three years from now. We believe that this should be conducted by an independent authority. Do you agree, and why or why not?

The review should be undertaken with the firearms community in a genuinely consultative manner.

As it is our intention to move firearms policy and Arms Act administration from Police to another entity, the review will be conducted by an entity other than Police.

If elected, will your party make changes to the Bill that specifically target non law-abiding firearms holders and the criminal elements of our society?

Yes. National has championed Firearms Prohibition Orders for this very purpose. A Firearms Prohibition Orders member’s bill in the name of Brett Hudson passed its first reading on 22 July and will be sent to the Justice select committee for consideration.

If elected, we will see FPOs included in the Arms Act.

We will also consider other measures which more properly focus firearms law on genuinely criminal behaviour.

It is commonly acknowledged that the NZ hunting industry contributes in excess of $50M annually to the economy. Would you consider offering further protection to designated herds of special interest under the Wildlife Management Act and fully acknowledge their value to NZ history and heritage?

This is not an area which National has formalised a position on, but, for example, we have actively supported the hunting community with respect to Himalayan tahr management and hunting.

What will your party do to support the recreational hunting sector and other legitimate licensed firearms owners in improving the relationship with the non-hunting public and promoting the acceptance of hunting and sporting use of firearms as a safe and healthy pastime?

Licensed firearms owners are a part of our communities, not a group set apart from them.

National will not demonise law-abiding firearms owners through legislation which serves to highlight them as a problem by placing more rules, regulations and costs on them instead of focusing on where the true problems lie – with genuine criminal behaviour and gangs.

Firearms ownership and use comes with responsibilities. National believes that the vast majority of licensed firearms owners fulfil their responsibilities properly and willingly comply with the law.

National will support legitimate firearms users through sensible and pragmatic changes to the Arms Act, such as relates to sports shooting, pest control and the oversight of shooting clubs and ranges.

National believes that organised, well-structured and well-governed organisations promote the safe use of firearms and they should be encouraged, not hampered and threatened through overburdening bureaucracy.

National believes that the relationship between the firearms community and the regulator should be open, transparent and genuinely consultative.


 

Is your party comfortable with the basic intent of the Arms Legislation Bill?

No, New Conservative is not comfortable with the basic intent of the Arms Legislation Bill/Act, which is to impose expensive, ineffective restrictions on legal firearms owners without achieving any effect on the illegal use and possession of firearms by criminals.

If elected, would your party repeal the Bill or make amendments to it?

New Conservative will repeal the Arms Legislation Bill/Act.

If you repeal, would your party proceed with the registration of individual firearms as is currently proposed?

New Conservative will not proceed with the registration of individual firearms as is currently proposed. Moreover, New Conservative will do away with the PTP system that was in place for then E-cat firearms, as the E-cat records have proven to be significantly erroneous by the Auditor-General. The Arms Act prior to 2019 provided only for the PTP [Permit to Procure] system and not for registration for those firearms.

New Conservative will seek the creation of an independent authority to administer the Arms Act, similar to the NZTA’s administration of driver licences. Part of our intent for this new authority is to ensure that funds collected from civilian firearms owners for licence applications etc. are actually used for administering the Arms Act and not reallocated for other purposes. We envisage that local ‘arms officer’ roles stay within communities, providing invaluable insight and support for licence vetting. With better training and resourcing for firearms licence vetting, New Zealand’s long-standing and hitherto effective practice of registering the owners rather than the firearms is our best solution (as opposed to registration) to preventing criminal use and possession of firearms.

If elected, will your party be looking at relaxing the onerous rules applying to bona fide recreational firearms clubs and organisations and their shooting ranges?

With the repeal of the Arms Legislation Bill/Act, the onerous rules applying to those bona fide recreational firearms clubs and organisations and their shooting ranges will be removed.

A review of the Firearms Bill is proposed to happen three years from now. We believe that this should be conducted by an independent authority. Do you agree, and why or why not?

New Conservative will repeal the Arms Legislation Bill/Act and the Arms Amendment Bill/Act. However, in the circumstance where there is a review, such a review should be conducted by an independent authority. Such an authority should be independent from any government agency, including that administering the Arms Act or civilian firearms ownership. Only then can a true understanding be obtained of the effectiveness of any legislation, devoid of any political interference.

If elected, will your party make changes to the Bill that specifically target non law-abiding firearms holders and the criminal elements of our society?

New Conservative will repeal the Arms Legislation Bill/Act and the Arms Amendment Bill/Act.

New Conservative will seek to have better enforcement of existing legislation, to ensure proper administration of law-abiding firearms owners and prevent criminal elements of our society from getting firearms licences through more consistent and thorough vetting. Combined with better border protection and law enforcement efforts being focused on the illegal drug trade and thus gang activity, these will be far more effective at targeting the illegal use and possession of firearms by criminals.

Further, New Conservative will look to make the illegal possession or use of an illegal firearm an aggravating factor in sentencing. Combined with our 3-stage sentencing and rehabilitation programme, we aim to tackle the high rates of criminal recidivism.

It is commonly acknowledged that the NZ hunting industry contributes in excess of $50M annually to the economy. Would you consider offering further protection to designated herds of special interest under the Wildlife Management Act and fully acknowledge their value to NZ history and heritage?

New Conservative recognises the social and cultural significance that introduced wildlife holds for New Zealanders. We also recognise the economic benefits that these herds bring into the country. We would like to see these industries thrive. Protection and regeneration of natural environments as well as wise management of designated herds is thus vital.

The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation provides a great example of an organisation that aims to protect the interest of the environment and ecology of the area as well as key animal management systems that improve the quality of the herd and control deer numbers within the National Park.

Community-based management of herds by ballots is a positive approach, and we would seek to strengthen relationships between the Department of Conservation and these community-based initiatives. We understand the enormous commitment made by local committees to self-manage their local herds and that there is a financial cost to meeting the requirements set out by the Department of Conservation.

New Conservative will phase out 1080 and, in doing so, allow species to thrive. This means funding will be gradually re-allocated to assist community-based management initiatives. Culling by the Department of Conservation should only be a last resort to population control. More Government interference is almost never the answer, but personal responsibility for one’s own surroundings certainly is.

We want to see full freezers and healthy herds, not empty packs and heavy tax bills for bureaucracy.

What will your party do to support the recreational hunting sector and other legitimate licensed firearms owners in improving the relationship with the non-hunting public and promoting the acceptance of hunting and sporting use of firearms as a safe and healthy pastime?

We acknowledge that recreational hunting and legitimate civilian firearms use is ingrained in New Zealand culture.

We are concerned to see anti-gun lobbyists and fearmongers vilifying these healthy sports and recreational activities. Public education and early introduction to firearms is essential to a balanced and safety-conscious view of firearm ownership. In modern times, people are gaining unrealistic and unhealthy paradigms from media and movies, and this needs to be shifted back to a holistic community focus.

We would look to see reputable bodies such as NZDA/MSC and sporting clubs engage openly with their local community. This could take the form of Outdoor-ED classes including firearm safety lessons or food technology lessons including field dressing and butchery. We believe it to be appropriate to provide Government funding for these sporting and hunting clubs, in partnership with Police and Ministry of Education, to provide lessons and hands-on experiences to their local schools.


 

We often refine policy through long-term review and collaboration with industry leaders and organisations. Because of this, we are unable to announce our specific fisheries policies at this point in time. New Zealand First has always supported hunters and law-abiding firearm licence holders in their activities.

On 18 June, 2020, we successfully passed the second tranche of gun reforms, which included creating a national gun registry, strengthening the licensing regime to filter out “high risk” people and behaviour, creating an advisory group consisting of members of both the firearms and non-firearms communities, strengthening regulation over the importation, distribution and manufacture of firearms and components and introducing new offences and penalties.

New Zealand First successfully introduced the requirements that an independent entity be established to take over firearms licensing and administration from the police. The second tranche of gun reforms also allowed the members of the farming community, owners and managers of agriculture businesses to apply for endorsements to use prohibited firearms for pest control without having to establish a company to carry out the work. These changes were supported by the New Zealand Police Association who stated that the changes were long overdue.

Is your party comfortable with the basic intent of the Arms Legislation Bill?

Yes.

If elected, would your party repeal the Bill or make amendments to it?

Party policy regarding firearms is currently waiting for announcement.

If you repeal, would your party proceed with the registration of individual firearms as is currently proposed?

Registration of individual firearms in the arms legislation is no longer proposed; it is now a legal requirement as of 18 June 2020, and New Zealand First supported the Bill.

If elected, will your party be looking at relaxing the onerous rules applying to bona fide recreational firearms clubs and organisations and their shooting ranges?

Party policy regarding firearms are waiting for announcement.

A review of the Firearms Bill is proposed to happen three years from now. We believe that this should be conducted by an independent authority. Do you agree, and why or why not?

Party policy is still being finalised on this matter. It should be noted that New Zealand First entered requirement that an independent authority take over firearms licensing and administration from the police.

If elected, will your party make changes to the Bill that specifically targets non law-abiding firearms holders and the criminal elements of our society?

Party policy regarding firearms is being finalised.

It is commonly acknowledged that the NZ hunting industry contributes in excess of $50M annually to the economy. Would you consider offering further protection to designated herds of special interest under the Wildlife Management Act and fully acknowledge their value to NZ history and heritage?

New Zealand First has always supported hunters, and our policies regarding hunting are currently waiting for announcement.

What will your party do to support the recreational hunting sector and other legitimate licensed firearms owners in improving the relationship with the non-hunting public and promoting the acceptance of hunting and sporting use of firearms as a safe and healthy pastime?

New Zealand First fully supports the hunting sector and legitimate firearm owners and their promotion of hunting and sporting use of firearms. Our policy is currently being finalised.


 

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