Gun laws raise doubt

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Invercargill Status Guns owner Nelson Collie (left) and Custom Guns owner Greg Hudson are unsure of what the Government's new gun laws will mean for pest control.

BANNED firearms may present new obstacles for pest control management in Southland.

Custom Guns owner Greg Hudson, who has run his gun retail store out of Invercargill for four years, said newly prohibited military style semi-automatic firearms (MSSA) were more practical for large-scale pest control.

Gun owners are anxiously awaiting further instruction from the government on its proposed gun laws, with some fearful of what it will mean for pest control.

“There’s needs and wants. When you start talking about needs, you buy a V8 if you’re going to tie it to a horse float with four horses in it, do you need it? No. But is it more practical? Yes,” Mr Hudson said.

“In a lot of circumstances there’s guys that have used these types of firearms very successfully. Because they were available they were being used and found to be very efficient, cost effective, and reliable. So needs and wants is a tricky one.”

Mr Hudson said not everyone needed to use MSSA firearms, but the ban would have implications for farmers who manage large populations of deer, tahr, goats, and wallabies.

“There are people who provide genuine, ongoing support to the farming community in pest control who are being excluded.”

He said farmers would have to hire contractors, who were entitled to an exemption to use large magazines, to do the work for them.

“There’s a great level of economic detriment to the entire community and the industry because these are going to be additional costs that were never traditionally having to be dealt with. Farmers always did all this themselves.”

Federated Farmers rural security spokesman Miles Anderson said the organisation had been working closely with the government and would continue to push for exemptions for farmers.

“In some circumstances it’s necessary to have large magazines [for pest control]. But in saying that, there’s hundreds, not thousands of farmers in New Zealand that have a high pest population.”

He said the organisation urged the government to allow for exemptions if there was a genuine need but had their request denied.

“We felt that unless you had a specific reason for them, we can’t see any reason why you would need them. We are continuing to argue for genuine exemptions to be considered.”

Mr Anderson said the issue was going to affect areas with large populations of pests, which cause damage to farmland and pose a threat to the environment.

Private organisations such as the Department of Conservation (Doc) were one of the few organisations who had been allowed exemptions for use of semi-automatic firearms to control pest populations.

Doc senior media adviser Leigh-Anne Wiig said it was rare for the department to use MSSA firearms but pest control was needed to protect conservation land and wildlife.

“Doc’s use is mainly restricted to aerial operations, involving a small number of specialist staff, to target species such as wallabies, feral goats, feral pigs, Himalayan tahr, and chamois.”

Ms Wiig said Doc would act within the new laws and were working through how they would affect the organisation’s work and its contractors.

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