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Further restrictions to dangerous laser pointers welcomed

Further restrictions to dangerous laser pointers welcomed

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew has welcomed a bill which will make possession of a high-power laser pointer in public, without a reasonable excuse, an offence.

The Summary Offences (Possession of High-power Laser Pointers) Amendment Bill yesterday passed its final reading in the House.

“High-power laser pointers can cause eye injuries – even blindness – and skin burns. ACC accepts around 10 claims a year for these injuries,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“They can also cause temporary flash blindness, which poses a serious risk if the person affected is a pilot or in charge of a vehicle or equipment. Last year the Civil Aviation Authority reported 119 laser strikes on aircraft in New Zealand. This was a record high, compared to fewer than ten laser strikes recorded on aircraft in 2006.

“This is why at the end of last year I announced new regulations limiting the importation of these dangerous devices and restricted use to authorised users.”

These tighter controls have been in place since 1 March, under the Customs and Excise Act 1996 and regulations under the Health Act 1956.

To date, the Ministry of Health has approved 23 applications to import, supply and/or acquire high power laser pointers, with two still being considered.

The Ministry has also completed two rounds of visits to retailers and wholesalers to ensure compliance with the regulations and is regularly monitoring online auction sites.

“I commend National MP Cam Calder on putting forward his Amendment which very usefully complements the customs and health regulations. The Bill uses the same definitions, targeting hand-held laser pointers which are over 1mW in power, and provides another useful tool to reduce the risk from these devices.

“Indiscriminate use of high-power laser pointers has become a major problem worldwide. This legislation will bring New Zealand’s regulation of laser devices into line with other countries such as Sweden and Australia which operate formal regulatory regimes for these devices.”

More information on laser pointers, the controls and how to apply for authorisation are available on the Ministry of Health website www.moh.govt.nz.


ends

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