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Firearms proposals slightly off target - Feds

Federated Farmers agrees with most of the steps by government to protect people from illegal or irresponsible firearms use. But concerns about pest control and the effectiveness of a register remain.

"We recognised after the March 15 tragedy in Christchurch that action on this front was necessary," Federated Farmers rural security spokesperson Miles Anderson said. "However, the truncated time frame for getting workable measures into place has inevitably resulted in several missteps.

"Our main message at the Arms Legislation Bill select committee stage will be to repeat our call that a select group of farmers and land managers who can demonstrate need should still be able to own and use semi-automatic centrefire rifles for pest management. It’s not practicable nor cost-effective to have to rely solely on authorised contractors."

Just one example of the consequences of hampering pest control work is in the latest issue of the Forest & Bird magazine. An article notes that wallabies are steadily increasing in number and range throughout the central South Island, and Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and the Waikato.

Wallabies eat six times more than rabbits and they’re a scourge on regenerating native forest, never mind pasture and young pine trees.

MPI has said the economic impact of wallaby damage is already $28 million a year, and this could rise to $84 million within a decade.

"The several hundred farmers with significant pest numbers are on the spot year-round and need semi-automatic centrefire rifles to take a number of these animals out before groups scatter."

Federated Farmers questions the worth of a firearms register, given the complexity and cost of the process, and the experience in other jurisdictions around the world where they have not been successful.

Changing the length of the time of issue for a firearms licence from 10 years to five years would add cost for no particular gain, Miles said.

"We also think it’s essential that there is a rural voice on the proposed firearms advisory group. Farmers are the largest group in New Zealand for whom firearms are an essential work tool."


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