The government’s intention to get tougher on gangs with a firearms ban triggered almost immediate statements of support from ACT and – less generously – a better-late-than-never grouch from the Nats.
The Nats, moreover, pressed for the legislation to be even tougher.
The only other announcement from the Beehive since we last posted news from that source deals with steps being taken to bring more migrant workers into the country.
About 500 Managed Isolation and Quarantine rooms will be made available for “large groups” every fortnight.
Ministers are making much of the boost they are giving to the building industry and to agriculture, horticulture and viticulture.
Gunning for the gangs
The Government will make it illegal for high-risk people to own firearms by introducing Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs) to strengthen action already taken to combat the influence of gangs and organised crime.
These orders are intended to protect the public from harm by prohibiting high-risk people from accessing, being around, or using firearms.
Breaching the conditions of a Firearms Prohibition Order will be a criminal offence.
Both the Firearms Prohibition Order Bill, and the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Amendment Bill will be introduced into the House before the end of the year. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the bills when they are referred to select committee.
Police Minister Poto Williams said it is a privilege, not a right, to own or use a gun in this country, and the privilege should be taken away from people who pose a threat to our communities.
Moreover, the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act will be amended to introduce a new power enabling seizure of assets of those associated with organised crime where the person’s known legitimate income is likely to have been insufficient to acquire the asset.
And about time, too, huffed National’s Police spokesperson, Simeon Brown – after years of calling for Firearm Prohibition Orders against violent gang members to be implemented, “the Government is finally listening”.
In fact, Labour is acting rather than listening.
Whether it is taking sufficient action and whether it should have acted sooner are the questions. It’s an issue that typically precipitates “our policies are tougher than yours” ballyhoo as political parties vie for support on the law-and-order front.
Brown said the Nats still have questions regarding the Government’s proposal, such as whether its policy will include additional search powers against those who have FPOs as recommended by the Police Association.
National is also concerned FPOs will only be put in place by the Courts, after someone has committed a serious offence, rather than put in place in advance as proposed in its policy.
“This is putting the public at risk, we should be trying to avoid serious offending, not applying the FPOs afterwards.”
Seizing the opportunity for point scoring, Brown recalled the Government was first recommended to introduce FPOs back in 2017.
“Since then Labour has sat on its hands in Government and overseen a 48 per cent increase in gang membership and gang violence.”
The measures announced today are “a change of heart for the Government”, which had twice voted against National’s legislation to introduce FPOs in Parliament.
“If the Government was truly serious about cracking down on illegal ownership of guns, it would’ve made changes to National’s FPO legislation that’s currently in Select Committee, speeding up the process, rather than throwing it out just to introduce its own legislation.
“Had Labour worked with the National Party when we first called for FPOs, we could’ve had them in place by now.”
ACT’s Justice Spokesperson Nicole McKee less acrimoniously declared that ACT welcomed news the Government “is finally targeting the gangs and dangerous criminals, rather than law-abiding firearms users”.
Gang membership has increased by 2264 since 2017, she noted. Only 2 per cent of that is 501 returnees from Australia.
“This is mostly a home grown issue. It’s about time the Government took some action.”
McKee proceeded to claim the Government has effectively taken her Member’s Bill, which was also ACT Election Policy about hitting the gangs where it hurts, in their pockets and claimed it as their own.
But she generously conceded:
“This is good public policy and I applaud Labour for finally doing the right thing.”
“I give credit to the Government for starting to the turn the dial from targeting law abiding citizens, to finally targeting violent criminals and gangs.”
Paving the way for more migrant workers
Five hundred spaces per fortnight will be allocated in managed isolation facilities over the next 10 months, many for skilled and critical workers to support the country’s economic recovery.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Trans-Tasman bubble has freed up more rooms, allowing the government to allocate more places in managed isolation for critical workers and giving it flexibility to attract skills and people needed to drive the economic recovery while carefully managing risks of bringing in COVID-19.
About 500 MIQs rooms will be made available for “large groups” every fortnight. These include spaces for:
- Around 300 RSE workers every month from June – with a total of 2400 arriving by March 2022
- 300 specialised construction workers between June and October
- 400 international students for arrival in June, out of the 1000 previously announced, for the start of semester two
- 100 refugees every six weeks from July.
Hipkins said this was great news for the construction sector, giving certainty for planning projects with specialist workers from overseas, maintaining construction jobs for Kiwis and bringing new knowledge to New Zealand for employers and employees.
The government has also renewed border exceptions for shearers, rural mobile plant machinery operators and essential travellers to and from the Pacific.
They will be required to book spaces through the online Managed Isolation Allocation System.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the dedicated spaces in MIQ and renewed border exceptions will provide the agriculture, horticulture and viticulture sectors with the additional workforce to support rural communities and help drive New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
“This decision should see around 2400 more RSE workers entering New Zealand in time for next summer’s harvest season and pruning this winter. This is in addition to the 7300 RSE workers currently in the country, including the 2000 the Government approved to support the horticulture and viticulture industries during the recent summer harvest season.