No Christmas miracle for stretched police

Police Minister Poto Williams and Justice Minister Kris Faafoi have failed to live up to the commitment that they made in May to introduce critical legislation to take guns off gang members by the end of 2021, National’s Police spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.

“Firearms Prohibition Orders were recommended to the Government back in 2017 and finally, on the last sitting day of 2021, a toothless Bill has been introduced.

“Earlier this year, National had our FPO legislation voted down by Labour in the House. In a press release on 11 May 2021, the Minister said they would be introducing their own bill before the end of the year. They’ve done it today with hours to spare, but no debate will be had until 2022.

“Over the last three years, there have been over 7,700 firearm related incidents that police have had to attend. There are up to an estimated 180,000 prohibited firearms still in circulation around New Zealand.

“Right now, gangs are better armed than the Police.

“We needed rapid action to take guns off the people that shouldn’t have them. National’s bill would have allowed police to conduct warrantless searches and take firearms out of the hands of gang members. It would have made it illegal for a gang member to obtain a firearms licence.

“We have seen a 50 per cent increase in gang membership since Labour first took office back in 2017. Police have been calling for greater tools to turn the tide on the rapid growth of gangs and the harm they are causing.

“National cares about the safety of the New Zealand public. That’s why we’ve tried several times to bring these critical Prohibition Orders into law, yet we have been blocked by the Government each time.

“The Government sat on this for seven months with no action. Then today, nine minutes after my Oral Question was made public, they had a press release out and a bill introduced to the House. Until their inaction was highlighted, nothing was happening this year.

“It is clear that the Government is not serious or committed to reducing the harm caused by gangs. In March, the Police Association said that any Bill would be "useless" without giving the police the additional power of a warrantless search. The Government’s Bill does not bring these powers.

“Police will not have additional powers over the Christmas and summer period that would have helped them contain and reduce the growing firearms violence in their communities. Police deserve a Minister that is engaged and understands what support is required and will act quickly to deliver that support,

“Poto Williams is missing in action. She is failing as a Minister to support the agency she is responsible for. She appears disengaged, with little understanding of or interest in supporting our police.”