The low rate of firearms handed in so far shows that the Government’s buyback scheme is failing to secure buy-in from the firearms community, National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“Police have said there’s more work to be done and they’re right. After 141 events, there has only been 17,354 firearms handed in.
“This is a poor result when considering there is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of now prohibited firearms. The New Zealand Police stated there could be 240,000 firearms that are now banned.
“Gangs are not complying with the buyback and we are seeing no action from the Government to tackle the problems of illegal firearm use, with the focus seemingly on the law abiding firearms community.
“The Minister needs to explain how this helps to keep us safe.
“He has failed to engage with the firearms community and they’re responding by not engaging with the buyback.
“The Government must review it’s price list for firearms, it needs to include accessories, ammunition and safes that are redundant now the law has changed and, most importantly, it needs to work with the firearms community.
“The overwhelming majority of firearm owners are good, law abiding citizens. But there is distress in that community at the way the Government has approached their reforms.
“If the Government wants to do justice to the buyback process they will start engaging with the community and review their price lists. Anything less will be undermining the point of the buyback and failing to make New Zealand safer.”
The Police Minister must ensure that police standards are not dropping under his watch, National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“Reports today that Police vetting failed to pick up a gang affiliation raises serious questions about the processes in place.
“The risk is that the Minister, in an attempt to push through as many graduates as possible before the election to keep his promises, has compromised on standards.
“The New Zealand Police provide an essential service to New Zealand and require support, but not if it comes at the cost of standards that help ensure our Police are ready for the job facing them.
“This is a basic issue and should have been picked up.
“I would expect some serious questions to be asked of the Minister and assurances provided to make sure that this issue is not repeated again.”
Julie Anne Genter will have her fingers crossed that fuel prices keep ballooning, otherwise her car tax won’t provide all the economic benefits she claims it will, National’s Associate Transport spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“The Associate Transport Minister has been shopping her car tax policy to the public based on misinformation about the future price of petrol.
“The purported benefits of her plan to tax higher-emissions vehicles and subsidise low-emissions vehicles are almost entirely derived from future fuel savings for private vehicle owners, according to her ministry’s documents.
“But those calculations are based on the pre-tax price of fuel being 40c to 50c per litre more than it is now. The problem with that is, it’s never going to happen.
“Her ministry stuffed up and based its policy on an out-of-date MBIE forecast from 2012. The fuel prices in that forecast are already 50 per cent higher than actual prices today.
“This completely undermines the policy model. Without these fuel savings benefits, the car tax has a benefit-to-cost ratio of just 0.2, meaning for every dollar spent the policy only benefits greenhouse gas emissions by 20c.
“Not only does Labour and the Greens want to punish Kiwis for buying certain cars, their sneaky tax grab will not deliver anything like the benefits they claim.
“I’m calling on Julie Anne Genter to either admit her policy is based on incorrect information, or that she secretly hopes Kiwis get fleeced at the pump so her lies won’t be exposed.”
Documents released today show the Government is compromising public safety in failing to make its gun buyback scheme fair and reasonable, National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“Today the Government finally released the KPMG report that informed its firearms buyback scheme and it shows Ministers have disregarded advice to make the buyback as effective as possible.
“The Government was told the cost of the buyback could be up $750 million for the scheme to be effective. Instead it has chosen the lower cost option, despite warnings the firearms community was feeling pain and anger and this would impact compliance.
“This feeling is reflected in the numbers of guns handed back now. In a briefing to Ministers, the high-end estimate was that around 240,000 firearms could be captured, but we know this number could be higher. Despite that, the buyback has only brought in 6800 firearms to date at a price of $12 million.
“If the buyback events continue at the same pace, the Government may end up with fewer than 50,000 firearms handed in. Even though the total number of banned firearms could be 240,000 or higher.
“Instead of putting compliance and public safety first and choosing the worst case option, the Government has focused on its budget bottom lines rather than work with the firearms community to make New Zealand safer.
“The Government is also refusing to take action against gangs and is instead hitting law-abiding firearm owners. Criminal gang members have no respect for the law, so Police need expanded powers to be able to deal with them.
“National has a Member’s Bill that will ensure gang members cannot hold a firearms licence and will allow Police to carry out searches on gang members who have a history of serious crimes.
“The view of many in the firearms community is the prices they are receiving are not fair and reasonable. We’ve got to ensure the buyback scheme works, and a critical part of that is making sure licensed firearms holders have confidence in the scheme.”
National is today putting a Members Bill back into the Ballot that would introduce Firearms Prohibition Orders, and ensure our communities are safer from dangerous gang members, National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“The Arms (Firearms Prohibition Orders) Amendment Bill will ensure gang members cannot hold a firearms licence and will allow Police to carry out searches on gang members who have a history of serious crimes.
“Gang members have made it very clear that they will not be participating in the firearm buyback scheme, so it’s important Police have the power to take their guns from them and ensure a safe society.
“The Labour-led Government is refusing to take action against gangs and is instead hitting law-abiding firearms owners with more costs and regulations. Criminal gang members have no respect for the law, so police need expanded powers to be able to deal with them.
“My colleague Chris Bishop previously tried to shepherd the Bill through Parliament, but it was voted down at first reading by NZ First, Labour and the Greens.
“The Government has also announced a Select Committee process half the usual length of time for its own Bill. When these reforms affect over 250,000 firearm owners this simply isn’t good enough.
“We are already seeing the problems of a rushed process. Many feel like they were not treated fairly or reasonably and that’s why only a fraction of the firearms have been returned so far.
“Many firearms owners are taken aback by the pace and scope of the Government’s reforms. By taking the time to engage with stakeholders we can ensure a more meaningful set of reforms.
“It is important that we ensure the focus of these reforms is placed firmly on ensuring a safer society by being tough on gang members, not by punishing lawful firearms owners.”
The Government has lost sight of who its firearms legislation should be focussed on, National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“While National hasn’t been briefed on all of the detail, the second tranche of the Government’s reforms focusses on imposing more regulation and costs on law abiding New Zealanders. Instead, it should be getting tough on illegal firearms users, the importation of illegal firearms and gangs.
“National supported the first tranche of gun law reform because it was the right thing to do to take steps to close some loopholes and stop people converting firearms into more powerful weapons.
“While we support sensible, pragmatic and reasonable change that stops harmful criminal activity, we are concerned that gang members have refused to give up their firearms, even when new laws have been introduced which make their weapons illegal.
“The Government has turned a blind eye to this. National had a Bill before Parliament known as ‘Firearms Prohibition Orders’ which would have widened the powers available to Police to search the homes and cars of serious, violent gang members for firearms – but the Government voted it down.
“National is also concerned that the Government wants to have a shortened Select Committee process. This is a large rewrite of a complex piece of legislation and it needs to be fair on firearms users. We need to get it right.
“The buy-back has so far seen about two thousand people hand in their firearms but we know that there are hundreds of thousands of people with firearms. The gangs have been clear, they won’t be handing theirs back – that’s where the focus should be.”
In a move that contradicts the Government’s “wellbeing” approach, mental health nurses have been axed from Counties Manukau Police Station, National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“The ‘watch-house nurse pilot initiative’ was launched in 2008. It placed mental health nurses in the Counties Manukau police watch house. Following its success, the pilot became business as usual in 2014.
“An evaluation of the programme in 2010 found there was strong evidence of reduced risk of harm, efficient referrals, and ongoing education to Police on mental health responses.
“Two fulltime nurses had been working in cells. The Police have had problems recruiting for the role after both nurses resigned.
“According to information released under the Official Information Act, the roles were incorporated into a separate Counties Manukau unit. However, the new unit is not based in the Police cells.
“Police say the new unit works closely with them, but it seems unlikely it could be working anywhere near as effectively as it was when it was at the epicentre of police operations.
“Mental health issues can’t be scheduled, and you never know when someone will be brought in who needs immediate help. The absence of those watch house nurses will not only place the sufferer at greater risk, it could also put the Police and wider public in danger.
“This Government claims to be all about wellbeing. But National set up this programme, which was delivering good results.
“Police Minister Stuart Nash needs to explain why a programme that was benefitting the mental health of our most vulnerable people has been scrapped.”
The revelation that more than 600 New Zealanders obtained firearms licences despite having criminal convictions in Australia raises serious questions about how fit for purpose Police processes are, National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“The public deserves to know what’s going on with procedures and processes across the country.
“This is no small matter. Of those 639 people with convictions who were granted licences, 37 went on to commit firearms-related crimes, including two homicides.
“In the wake of recent reports around the handling of firearms stored on Police premises, Police need to demonstrate to the public that its procedures and process are implemented consistently across the force, and across the country.
“The public will want to know whether or not the information sharing agreement with Australia is regularly used, what the threshold is for accessing it, and how it’s possible that so many applicants with Australian convictions appear to not have been captured under it.
“Keeping the public in the dark does nothing to improve confidence in the Government, Police or its procedures.
“Recent events have challenged this perception and Police must address that.”
The Government’s plan to make some vehicles up to $3000 more expensive by taxing their emissions will unfairly penalise people struggling with the cost of living, National’s Associate Transport spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has some big questions to answer about how much this scheme will impact farmers and tradies who don’t necessarily have the ability to shift into lower emission vehicles, given suitable options for their lifestyle just don’t exist.
“Popular new imported cars will see a significant price hike. The Toyota LandCruiser will be $3000 more expensive, the Mitsubishi Triton will jump by $2500, the Ford Ranger will be $2750 more and the Toyota Hilux will increase by $2000.
“Hiking the cost of certain vehicles will also impose more costs on some families who still can’t afford to switch to an electric vehicle. The widely-driven Mazda CX-5 will jump by $1500 while the Hyundai Tucson will be an extra $2000.
“This consequence of this could be some people hanging onto older, less safe vehicles for longer than they should.
“National supports greening the country’s vehicle fleet. The previous Government started the country off on this path by setting an ambitious target of having 64,000 new electric vehicles registered in New Zealand by 2021 and introducing incentives to buy electric.
“We were also planning to lead by example through transitioning the Government fleet to electric vehicles. Our policies saw the number of EVs on our roads increase from 1406 in May 2016 to 14,867 in June 2019.
“Vehicle emissions are one of the biggest contributors outside of agriculture, so we need to work on reducing them. But doing so shouldn’t come at the expense of New Zealanders’ wellbeing by increasing the cost of living further.
“Moving to electric vehicles can be done through more positive initiatives rather than telling car owners what they can’t drive and slapping them with new taxes, which is all this Government knows how to do.
“The Government should incentivise rather than penalise Kiwi motorists.”
The Government needs to take action to ensure Coastguard New Zealand isn’t unnecessarily charged compliance costs, National’s Associate Transport spokesperson Brett Hudson says.
“The recent decision to require Coastguard New Zealand to pay the maritime levy is simply absurd.
“Coastguard New Zealand provides a critical service to New Zealand and helps to secure the safety of thousands of New Zealanders along our coastlines.
“The work they do is valuable enough to attract the support of Kiwis who donate their money to Coastguard New Zealand every year and even gets support from the Government.
“To now have a bureaucratic decision made to treat them as a commercial operation and punish them with a levy that has traditionally been waived is a punishing blow.
“The Government’s job should be to fix problems, not create new ones.
“Smacking Coastguard New Zealand with a new levy is not reasonable and we need some clear direction from the Minister over how the Government is going to fix this problem they have made.”