7 Aug 2015

Gun safety programme changes under fire

4:07 pm on 7 August 2015

Hundreds of volunteer firearm instructors are reeling at the sudden shake up of the country's main gun safety programme, with some already quitting their roles.

rifle

firearms Photo: 123rf

The Mountain Safety Council is today facing a backlash from them after replacing the programme's two paid co-ordinators with new roles and axing the technical committee behind them.

The move is part of a major restructuring programme, which the council says reflects a need to improve safety in all outdoor activities.

The MSC runs the only programme that is contracted by police to administer a test for a firearm licences.

Last year more than 10,000 people took part in the programme.

John Greenwood has been a gun safety instructor for the Mountain Safety Council for 49 years, but he said that could soon change.

Mr Greenwood, who heads a team of 35 volunteers in Hamilton, said the latest round of changes would cut support for the country's 550 volunteer instructors.

He said earlier this year the council dumped about 2000 volunteer instructors in other fields, including bushcraft, first aid and risk management.

"What really annoys us was that the chief executive, Mike Daisley, had two workshops here with local instructors and he said on both occasions that the firearms programme is not being touched.

"It's a contract with police and we won't be changing it," he said.

"What they're doing is making a lie."

Mr Greenwood said the decision to shake up the firearms programme had made volunteers lose faith, resign or call for the police to take over the running of the programme.

He said he was hopeful another organisation might also take over the programme.

"We're working to get to a point where we possibly get another organisation to take it over, unless Mountain Safety step back from where they've gone and say 'hang on we've made a mistake'. "I'm open to [that] but I'm not holding my breath."

A firearms instructor for Gisborne, Rex Allen, said instructors were concerned the new roles created to replace the programme co-ordinators, weren't required to have a firearms licence themselves.

"We are devastated and we intend to hopefully resurrect the firearms training part of it, because the community cannot let this go.

"New Zealand has the best firearms policy in the world and these people that don't know anything about firearms are set to run the policy, then where the hang are we going to end up?"

Mr Allen said he would be sending out a petition condemning the changes to the council's executive this morning warning many volunteers have already resigned and more will follow.

Deerstalkers Association's national president Bill O'Leary was also angry and was planning to take the matter to the Police Commissioner.

"What the current Mountain Safety executive has done is basically destroyed the trust between instructors and the council and at this stage national associations will be saying to the Commissioner, we have lost faith."

National Rifle Association president Bruce Millard said he would support a take-over by police.

"I mean you need people with the knowledge of firearms to be training these people, you can't just open it up to security companies or private contractors because you've got no control."

Police said in a statement the changes were an internal matter for the Mountain Safety Council, and they do not affect its contract.

Chair of the MSC board, Geoff Ensor, has also declined to be interviewed, but said in a statement the changes reflected a need to improve the safety of more people heading into the outdoors, across a broad range of outdoor activities.

"The changes the Mountain Safety Council have been working through over the last year have been driven by the need to ensure the MSC is the most effective and relevant it can be in an ever changing world.

"These changes will ensure we are best placed to help keep more people safe in the outdoors both today, and into the future," he said.

"The implications of these changes on individuals is not lost on us, and we acknowledge the difficulties this creates for them.

"The new organisation structure will ensure we can support more people to enjoy the outdoors safely."

"Volunteer firearms instructors will continue to be supported by the MSC to do this work."

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