12 May 2015

Illegal use of firearms focus of review

6:37 pm on 12 May 2015

A review into the use of firearms will have more of a focus on their illegal use and associated activities Associate Conservation Minister Peter Dunne says.

250614. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Leader profiles. Peter Dunne, leader of the United Future political party.

Peter Dunne Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

He said hunters within recognised clubs are not the main target.

"I think that there's quite a bit of anecdotal evidence at least of increased illegal use, that is illegal access to land, poaching etc and obviously that creates risks of people basically being able to survive an incident.

"And I think this is a time to focus on those things and to make that people who are out there enjoying the great outdoors are first of all doing it safely and secondly can give assurance to other their safety is not a risk either."

Mr Dunne said as part of the review he will be talking to the police, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Mountain Safety Council.

Part of it will be about education and awareness, he said, but also just knowing where people were.

"So that for instance the increasing reports we get from both certain parts of the South Island and the North of increased levels of illegal activity and poaching can be addressed as well and that's a policing issue.

The law at the moment says if you are under 16-years-old you have to be under the direct and immediate supervision with a firearms licence.

Mr Dunne said it was not so much about changing the law, but enforcing it.

"Particularly where people are acting outside the mainstream, so they're not part of a recognised group, they're not part of a recognised hunting organisation etc...people who for various reasons are getting off the beaten track, out of the way of others and where the risks inherently become greater."

A 21-year-old hunter, Joshua Hunter Hill, died on Sunday after his gun went off and shot him in the chest as he climbed over a fence, in Ruatiti near Ohakune.

In the other incident, James Bucko Ross Johnston, 15, from Whakatane died while duck shooting in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

Mr Dunne said he has no comment about the two fatalities over the weekend, as they were now before the Coroners Court.

But he said said incidents causing injury or death were becoming increasingly frequent.

"New Zealand has again been sadly reminded that without following best practice, and taking the utmost care, the use of firearms can kill.

"The worst aspect is that these incidents are largely preventable.

Mr Dunne said once the review was completed, he would ask the Game Animal Council to work with the hunting and outdoors communities and use the findings to improve the situation.

"The Game Animal Council is the right body to do this as the representative of the hunting and outdoors communities.

"I am confident that with their leadership we will see an improvement to outdoors safety," he said.

The Deerstalkers Association said it supported moves to tighten up the requirements for inexperienced hunters.

And it supported putting requirements on the level of experience on those who are supervising less experienced hunters.

President Bill O'Leary said it was a matter of opinion as to whether a newly licensed person was capable of supervising another.

But he said he would not allow young people to go out shooting without an experienced licensed adult.

The Mountain Safety Council said the focus should be on education, rather than age restrictions.

Spokesperson for the Council Nicole McKee said an age restriction for hunters was not necessary.

Ms McKee said accidents could happen at any age and restrictions on young hunters were not the answer.

She said it came down to experience, and it was up to the firearms community to teach safe habits to young hunters and supervise them.

Under current laws shooters can get a firearms licence at 18 but that can be 16 if they have their parents' permission.