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Fair and Reasonable Update: Licences and lockdown...

By Nicole McKee, COLFO
  •   14th Apr, 2020 Apr 14, 2020, 12:58 PM
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I’m emailing to update you on our work over the last ten days, despite the lockdown we’ve not stopped our work.

 

SITUATION ON LICENCES AND WHAT IT TELLS US ABOUT IMPENDING FEE HIKES

The Government has announced that all driver licences, WoFs, CoFs, and some vehicle certifications, that expired on or after 1 January 2020 will be valid for up to six months from 10 April 2020 - so that drivers aren’t caught out due to the lockdown.

 

We have publicly called on the Government for the same 6-month amnesty to apply to firearms licences, pointing out that our inability to renew licences during the lockdown could see us charged for illegal possession of firearms. We are worried about being made criminals through no fault of our own.

 

This is the latest Police update:

 

Applications from licence holders who licences expired during the Covid19 lockdown period will remain at the price for renewing a current A category licence: $126.50. Applications will be processed as quickly as possible but there will be delays.

 

While this sounds generous, it’s actually quite concerning. You will recall that the Government has always said they were going to change firearm licence fees to pay for their new unnecessary and unfair regime. But the Minister of Police always promised that he would give us an opportunity to comment on the changes.

 

“We have publicly called on the Government for the same 6-month amnesty to apply to firearms licences, pointing out that our inability to renew licences during the lockdown could see us charged for illegal possession of firearms. We are worried about being made criminals through no fault of our own.”

 

The Police’s statement suggests that they have actually already made the decision to increase fees and that the only thing stopping them from doing so is Covid-19.

 

Of course, we’ll continue to advocate on your behalf that licenced firearms owners should be involved in a discussion before changes are effected.

 

LEGALITY OF THE LOCKDOWN

Many people have questioned the legality of the ‘lockdown’ to the extent that it ‘bans’ hunting. Some COLFO constituent member organisations have taken the view that in these times their members should respect the government request.

 

The issue is not really part of the firearms law change problem which is the reason for the Fair and Reasonable campaign, and it would not have been in the minds of people who donated money for the campaign.

 

Nevertheless, we keep a close eye on Police statements about firearms and the legality of using firearms. Therefore we raised our eyebrows (and asked the Police for clarification) when we saw a claim that it was illegal to use a firearm during the lockdown.

 

The second Order of 3 April is pretty clear. It did not prohibit using a firearm on your own property (the one where your residence is located) or as part of operating an essential service (such as on a farm for pest control). It does Order the Police to enforce provisions banning you from leaving your property for the purpose of hunting.

 

“Many people have questioned the legality of the ‘lockdown’ to the extent that it ‘bans’ hunting. Some COLFO constituent member organisations have taken the view that in these times their members should respect the government request.”

 

Police have revised their website since our request for clarification. Reference to “firearm use is banned” has been removed and replaced with “Please stay at home and stay safe. And remember that while you can leave your residence under COVID level 4 for exercise close to home, this excludes hunting.

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We consider that in the current national climate people should follow the advice of their member organisations, and not challenge the Police on this matter, unless you want to lose a lot of time and possibly your firearms, without public sympathy.

 

However, some who have contacted us might be interested in this letter sent from our lawyers to the Prime Minister about the legality of the scope of the level 4 bans.

 

The letter was sent on behalf a range of our lawyer’s clients affected by the current ‘essential services only’ restrictions (i.e. not just COLFO), but it covers some points applicable to hunters:

 

[…] In our opinion a court considering the reasonableness of the 3 April Order under s 70(10(f) would want to know whether and how the decision-makers assessed the real contagion risks presented by activity outside the residence. For example, how does outdoor solo work where social distancing can be maintained at all times, rate in risk terms against the costs accumulated from banning it. Especially in comparison with other activities that are not being effectively controlled, or are expressly permitted. […]

 

[…] In the absence of the evidence requested we expect to advise our clients that significant elements of your current regime are probably unlawful. Of course that is a mixed question of fact and law. If there was good evidence that home confinement and cessation of activities deemed non-essential were necessary and efficient requirements (taking account of available alternatives) our current opinion would not be correct. […]

 

[…] We recognise that there may be practical public messaging or categorisation problems to support some otherwise irrational prohibitions even if most individuals could conduct their specified outdoor activities safely. But on current information it appears that your prohibitions on a lot of “non-essential” activity are outside the law. […]

 

“The letter was sent on behalf a range of our lawyer’s clients affected by the current ‘essential services only’ restrictions (i.e. not just COLFO), but it covers some points applicable to hunters:”

 

[…] We think that “essentiality” has come to trump “safety” and cost considerations. It seems to be applied without even getting go the more pertinent question - whether available hygiene and separation methods and behaviours associated with non- essential activity that could similarly limit virus transmission at far less personal and community cost. […]

 

[…] Let us offer an illustrative non-business case. Surfing, many forms of fishing, hunting, mountain biking and running are activities in which the chances of viral transmission are extremely low. The 25 March Health Act Order stated expressly, “Staying 2 metres away from others is an effective measure [to protect you and others from COVID -19]”. […]

 

[…] We could envisage concern about participants travelling together to venues with people from outside their bubble. Or congregating without observing the disciplines before, during and after the activity. But those risks are readily dealt with under the same enforcement regime as applies to the permitted activities of supermarket and other shopping, and local walking. […]

 

You can read the letter in full here.

 

CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL PHILANTHROPIST SUPPORTS COLFO CAMPAIGN

Some politicians have promoted a false idea of who and what a firearms owner is, to make it easier for them to demonise ordinary New Zealanders who enjoy firearm-based sports and hobbies. That’s why we’re making a real effort to humanise our campaign and our hobbies.

 

This week we released a video interview with Mark Dunajtschik. Mark Dunajtschik is a philanthropist known for funding the construction of the Wellington Children’s Hospital and has come out in support of our campaign against the Arms Legislation Bill.

 

“Mark Dunajtschik pointed out that the proposed register of firearms will not work because criminals and gangs will refuse to register their firearms.”

 

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A keen outdoorsman and hunter his entire life, Mark Dunajtschik sat down with us just before the lockdown to talk about his passion for deerstalking, and reasons why a firearms register will not work. The long-time patron of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association also outlined why the bill being considered by Parliament would impose unnecessary costs upon clubs.

 

Mark Dunajtschik pointed out that the proposed register of firearms will not work because criminals and gangs will refuse to register their firearms. He also discusses the history of one of New Zealand’s most popular firearms, the .303, which was originally a weapon of war before its widespread adoption by Kiwi hunters.

 

You will recall the nonsense slogan repeatedly used by the Minister of Police, and taken up by the Prime Minister, talking about the new law being to ban firearms designed to kill people, as if that made it irrelevant to everyone except psychopaths. They set out to vilify most licenced firearms owners.

 

COLFO's interview with Mark Dunajtschik is available here.

 

 

We applaud Mark Dunajtschik’s courage in speaking up for what is right and hope that others will join him in voicing their concerns over the Arms Legislation Bill.

 

SHANE RETI STILL HOLDING THE GOVERNMENT TO ACCOUNT
Finally in this update, we want to give a bouquet to National Party MP Shane Reti. Even during lockdown he is digging deeper into the data breach at the Minister of Culture and Heritage, which the Prime Minister’s office tried to cover up.

 

He’s been asking Parliamentary written questions of the Prime Minister. Good to see accountability still being ‘essential’ under lockdown.

 

Thank you for your support.

 

Nicole McKee

Spokesperson

Fair and Reasonable Campaign

Fair and Reasonable

PO Box 24020,

Manners Street,

Wellington 6142,

New Zealand

 

Keep up with Fair and Reasonable on Facebook.

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