Federated Farmers of New Zealand's Submission on the Arms Legislation Bill

Federated Farmers of New Zealand welcomes the opportunity to submit on the Arms Legislation Bill. The use of firearms is essential in New Zealand rural communities, both as a tool on farms and for hunting and shooting as a recreational pastime. Firearms are commonly used by our members for pest control, humane animal destruction and recreational hunting and shooting. In a 2019 Federated Farmers membership survey 92% of our farmers reported having firearms present in their household or business. Unlike the majority of firearm users who are recreational, primary producers require access to appropriate firearms as an essential work tool. This makes farmers the largest commercial users of firearms in New Zealand by far, as they are integral for both pest management and animal welfare. We ask that the Select Committee consider this carefully in their assessment of the Arms Act.

Federated Farmers has serious concerns with the review process that has been undertaken for the Arms Act. Following the speed of the previous amendments, firearms users were assured that there would be more time allowed for the consideration of any further changes. Instead, this process is again being undertaken with considerable haste, with a limited Select Committee hearing process and a visible determination to achieve outcomes prior to consulting with the affected parties. We can see no reason for the rushed timelines of these further amendments. Federated Farmers understood and publicly supported (contrary to views of some of our members) the desire for the speed of the previous amendments to the Act.

We operated in good faith in the clear understanding that the requirements of farmers to access appropriate firearms would continue. Both the Prime Minister and Police Minister repeatedly and publicly assured the farming community that this would be the case. Unfortunately, these assurances have not been honoured. There will be significant negative environmental and economic outcomes unless the relatively small number of farmers and foresters that have a genuine need to access prohibited firearms continue to have access to these firearms to control wild animals and animal pests.

Instead, as a consequence of this rushed legislation, we have ended up with an Arms Act that makes it impossible for those private landowners who are reliant on centrefire semiautomatic firearms for pest management to legally access them. This is a stark example of urban-based decision making on behalf of the agricultural and forestry sectors by those that have a poor understanding of the problem and have failed to undertake a thorough analysis of the costs or impacts on those that manage the land.

It is disappointing that those government agencies that have provided advice to the Minister of Police appear to have failed to seek the advice of operational staff who have the appropriate knowledge of firearms and pest control. Alternatively, if this was not the case, then this advice has been ignored. It is even more concerning that the Department of Conservation opposed providing continued access to these firearms, after successfully advocating for their own staff, when there is no doubt that their need for access to prohibited firearms was much lower than their farming and forestry neighbours. Federated Farmers has formally requested that both MPI and DoC review their past advice and talk to the people within their organisations that have expert knowledge of animal pest control and firearms. We note that Biosecurity New Zealand (MPI) did not seek out the views of the farmers and foresters before making their recommendations.

While our farmers own and use firearms for a number of legitimate reasons, they are also owners of valuable livestock and of land on which sought after wild animals are located. That means that landowners and farmers are one of the common victims of firearms based crimes.

Farmers, more than most, have a healthy respect for firearms and understand the need to get the balance right between protecting the public from the inappropriate use of firearms while providing for their appropriate use. The changes we propose present minimal public safety risks but provide significant environmental and economic benefits.

Please see the pdf attached to this page for our key submission points in detail.