2 February 2023 Media release
The new Police Minister has been called on to prevent Police breaching a critical clause of the Arms Act with a new proposal to charge licensed firearm owners for the cost of Police attendance at a burglary.
The proposal is part of a Police consultation on the review of fees for firearm licenses, which is based on a full cost recovery model. The proposed changes will create new fees and increase current license and endorsement fees by as much as 2600% each.
The proposals introduce additional fees for theatrical armourers working on a film production site, with the stated intention of recovering the full cost of Police regulatory activity. One of the activities listed is Police “attend[ing] site following report of loss, theft, or burglary.”
This breaks Section 80 of the Arms Act, which states that activities subject to cost recovery do not include the response of the Police to calls relating to potential offending.
Spokesperson for the Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO), Hugh Devereux-Mack, says sloppy policy writers don’t understand the subject but are encouraged by a bureaucratic culture of persecution of licensed firearm owners.
“We call on Police Minister Stuart Nash to immediately halt this Police proposal, and promise to keep close oversight of future Police conduct toward licensed firearm owners.
“Alert licensed firearm owners are the only handbrake on Police, preventing them from overstepping their powers. If this passes, it will be inevitable that other communities could be targeted to pay the cost of burglary investigations after they suffer a loss. This establishes a precedent for user pays Policing.
“There’s no filter, no balance, and no attempt to create reasonable rules. No one seems to run the proposals against the Arms Act to check if they are lawful.”
Devereux-Mack said Minister Nash should review all the firearm fee proposals which require licensed firearm owners to pay Police full price for bookkeeping and security checks following a burglary, even if they fully complied with Police guidance before the event.
Two other fee proposals come very close to breaking the same Arms Act clause because they are unclear whether the task would be a normal part of the Police investigation, or a later review of security. Dealers, collectors, museums, and all other endorsement holders will pay for Police to check security measures at a premises where theft or burglary of firearms has occurred. Licensed firearm owners will be paying Police to update its records if their home or premise has been burgled.
“If the records Police update, or the security check of an endorsement-holder’s premises, is used in the conduct of a criminal investigation, cost recovery for that task could also break Section 80 of the Arms Act. This needs clarification.”
Hugh Devereux-Mack says the fees are excessive, appear to charge users twice, and underhanded in that they bundle the extra charges into the one-off cost of a license renewal.
“However they try to disguise it, the proposal means that Police want to charge victims full price for Police attendance at the scene of a burglary, and for the bookkeeping afterwards. This can be viewed as re-victimization.
“It is unfair because citizens who own firearms pay twice for the Police to pursue criminals; once through their taxes, and then for Police to update the records that inform its investigations.
“There isn’t a single law-abiding New Zealander who wouldn’t want the theft of a firearm to be fully investigated by Police, and for the security of a firearms dealership to be up to scratch. Burglary of firearms is a matter of extreme urgency and public safety.
“Charging fees incentivizes non-reporting by punishing the victim.
“This is different to how Government treats dairies, whom it supports with funding for enhanced security and does not charge for Police work.
“This attempt from Police to make victims pay is a scary precedent. It’s a small step away from paying for car theft investigations through your vehicle license, whether or not Police find it, or are even willing to look. It would be another small step to users paying extra in the hope of getting justice.”
“It is sad that Police are prepared to charge law-abiding citizens to pay to be victims, while criminals, such as gang members, have their funerals shepherded through town by Police for free.”
For further information contact: Hugh Devereux-Mack. 027 362 0853