While hunting clubs in the region are experiencing growth the licencing department at Nelson police say figures remain steady.
Last week Nelson Weekly ran a story about the growth of the New Zealand Deer Stalking Association’s Nelson branch, which has seen 25 per cent growth in the past two years. But police say their stats remain firm with around 700 new licences being issued each year.
So far this year 418 new licences have been issued in the Tasman policing district, which runs from Haast to Kaikoura north, with a further 255 renewed. That’s similar to last year’s figure which showed 517 new licences and 245 renewals. In total, the Tasman district has around 18,000 people with a firearms licence, one of the highest in the country.
Police average 80 revocations a year, where the licence is taken off people, and 10 refusals.
Inspector Ross Lienert says while stats have been steady they are expecting a surge in renewals as the ten year licence scheme was introduced in 1992, meaning many who had their licence then will be renewing it for the third term.
He says staff will be added as they’re needed over the next few years.
Firearms Licensing Officer Dana Weir, who oversees the firearms team, says the policy to get only “fit and proper” people using firearms seems to be working.
“To look at a firearm it’s a piece of wood and a piece of metal, it’s the people using the firearms that cause the problems with them. We look at people, not just how they would be with a firearm. A lot of young guys who are driving boy racer-style apply and if we can’t trust them in a car, why would we trust them with a firearm and that’s something we tell them.”
To earn a firearms licence applicants need to sit a mountain safety council-run course, have an interview with an officer and have their next of kin and another referee available for interview.
Ross says police will sometimes have an “honest conversation” with some people who are thinking of applying, which helps keep the refusal number so low. “Ultimately they can still apply but sometimes if someone has a serious previous conviction or more recent minor ones that involve alcohol or disorder we’d say ‘maybe you need to go away and grow up a bit or show you don’t have any issues with alcohol anymore and give it a go then.’ At the end of the day to have a firearms licence is a privilege, not a right and we’re responsible for making sure that happens.”
Dana says the biggest issue police have with licence holders is that they don’t update their address when they move house.
“It’s an easy fix, they can just go onto the website and change it there, or give us a call. I’ve got a pile of renewal letters, reminding people that they need to renew their licence, that can’t go out because we don’t have their address.”
Failing to update your address can be grounds for revocation or a $500 fine. For more information about getting your firearms licence visit www. police.govt.nz/service/firearms.