New Zealand Labour Party
Menu

Media Releases

Safety focus in improved drug driver testing

Improving the safety of all road users is the focus of a new public consultation document on the issue of drug driver testing.

Plans for public consultation on options to improve the drug driver testing process have been announced by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash.

Julie Anne Genter said: “While drug drivers already face serious criminal penalties if caught, the current law makes it hard for Police to carry out higher numbers of tests that could deter drug driving.

“And unlike with alcohol testing, drug testing comes with some unique challenges, which is why we want expert and public input into the design process.   For example, unlike alcohol breath tests, drug tests can only detect the presence of drugs or medication. They cannot test if a driver is impaired.

“We know the public wants to be involved in the development of legislation that will impact them. Consultation will ensure changes to the current system incorporate the needs and wishes of New Zealanders.

“A considered approach to developing enhanced drug driver testing will mean we can develop a robust testing system that’s grounded in evidence and best practice. We need to do this thoughtfully,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“Irrespective of whether someone is impaired by alcohol, medication or recreational drugs, they shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” says Stuart Nash.

“Last year, 71 people were killed in crashes where a driver was found to have drugs or medication in their system which may have impaired their driving.  That compares to 109 deaths where a driver was found to have alcohol in their system.

“We need to do more to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel and enforcement on our roads is a key part of this.  However Police cannot do this on their own. Every one of us must challenge dangerous driving behaviours when we see them,” Mr Nash said.

Consultation will take place over the next six weeks, concluding on Friday 28 June. The Government will be looking to confirm its options at the end of this year.

The Government is looking for feedback on:

  • the methods that could be used to screen and test for drugs
  • the circumstances in which a driver should be tested
  • what drugs should be tested for
  • how an offence for drug driving should be dealt with by Police.

The consultation document is attached.  Further details will be available on the Ministry of Transport website.

 


Making it easier to get help from Police

Police Minister Stuart Nash says calling a cop suddenly got a whole lot easier with the launch of a ground-breaking new service for non-emergency calls.

“The single non-emergency number ‘ten-five’ is designed to provide better service for the public and to take pressure off the iconic 111 phone number,” Mr Nash says.

“Police receive more than two million calls a year. Almost 900,000 are to the 111 service. There are around 1.2 million non-emergency calls to other Police numbers.

“Just 20 percent of 111 calls result in an emergency response, known as priority one. Another 20 per cent are priority two. This means at least sixty per cent of calls to the 111 number could be better dealt with on other channels. Some involve complaints about parking or noise or cheeky children.

“Calls to 111 should be limited to cases where an emergency is happening now or just happened and there’s a threat to life or property. If it’s already happened and there’s no immediate danger, call 105.

“We hope the introduction of the three-digit ‘ten-five’ number will make it easier for callers to get in touch with the right part of the Police service for the right reasons.

“There are many other ways people can get help with community safety and crime prevention. The *555 number is for urgent road issues. There are online forms, the anonymous CrimeStoppers 0800 line and the 1737 mental health support line.

“The police workforce has never been larger, and earlier this year passed a record high number of 13,000 frontline officers and support staff. It is a crucial part of the Coalition Government’s efforts to improve the wellbeing of communities.

“The new non-emergency number ‘ten-five’ now makes it so much easier to get the right help from these extra Police,” says Mr Nash.

More information is available at: 105.police.govt.nz.


More Police deployed to the regions

Frontline Police numbers have been boosted with today’s deployment of 77 new officers to the regions.

Police Minister Stuart Nash today congratulated the recruits of Wing 325 who graduated at a formal ceremony at the Royal New Zealand Police College.

“I am delighted at the continuing progress in the diversity of our new Police officers and this latest recruit wing is a prime example,” Mr Nash says.

“Forty-nine per cent of the new recruits are female officers. It is one of the highest proportion of female constables to graduate from a recent training wing. Thirteen per cent of the new officers are Maori, 12 per cent are Pasifika and 12 per cent are Asian.

“The youngest recruit is 19 and the eldest is 45 years old. Nineteen of the new Police officers were born overseas and at least 17 languages other than English are spoken by those who graduate today.

“There are New Zealand and provincial sports reps, former members of the Armed Forces, and others with a strong tradition of volunteering in their communities. Others have been active in the arts including one who worked on a Hobbit movie.

“I also want to pay tribute to wing patron Paula Tesoriero who has been an inspiring mentor to the new recruits.

“Since the government was formed a total of 1289 new constables have been deployed. We are working hard on the recruitment, training and deployment of new officers.

“Our objective is to make New Zealand the safest country in the world. The wellbeing of our communities, crime prevention and public safety are key priorities for the new constables who graduate today,” Mr Nash said.


Taxpayers get a smarter and fairer system

One of the biggest IT projects ever undertaken in the state sector has successfully passed its latest hurdle with the transition of more than 19.7 million taxpayer accounts from one Inland Revenue computer system to another.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash is congratulating staff and the external agencies, including banks and ICT companies, who worked on the project known as Business Transformation Release 3.

“We are committed to ensuring our tax system is fair. That also requires us to ensure it is administered fairly through Inland Revenue’s own processes”, Mr Nash says.

“The department had to close its call centre and online presence over the Easter and ANZAC break to enable it to happen. A lot could have gone wrong. But instead, everything appears to have gone right.

“Every single taxpayer account for Income Tax and Working for Families was migrated from the legacy computer system to the new system, known as START. It involved a mind-boggling number of transactions and processes.

“The system went live on Friday and has been tested in the real-world environment over the past few days. For example, this week it processed $33 million in Working for Families payments for 161,000 customers.

“The new system will continue to be tested in the coming weeks and extra staff have been brought in to handle customer questions. It is still early days and there are likely to be bumps along the way. However, IR assures me it has plans in place and will be ready to respond.

“The short-term inconvenience to customers while they get used to the new system is more than offset by the significance of the changes. Every taxpayer affected will now have their account managed in a smarter, fairer and more efficient way.

“Too many people have been paying the wrong secondary tax. IR’s technology will now be smart enough to spot if someone is overpaying tax and help them correct it with a tailored tax code. It will make a big difference for those with more than one job or an irregular income.

“It also allows for automatic tax assessments. From late-May to mid-July, salary and wage earners will find out if they have a refund owing or a bill to pay. About 1.65 million customers will be told they have a refund.

“If this year is anything like 2018, an estimated $860 million will be refunded straight into people’s bank accounts.

“Around 330,000 families receiving Working for Families support will receive more accurate payments during the year. This means they get the assistance when they need it and have less chance of a debt to repay at the end of the year.

“All tax revenue is now administered in the new system, after GST, withholding taxes, fringe benefit taxes and others were migrated in the past two years. Other systems administered by IR, including student loans, KiwiSaver and child support, will be migrated in the next two years.

Mr Nash says the Business Transformation Release 3 project has involved the biggest changes to the tax system in two decades:

  • Two million customers were contacted in advance
  • 3,600 staff received special training
  • 92,300 tests were completed beforehand
  • 7 million accounts were migrated to the new system
  • Records of 100 million transactions were migrated
  • 3 million web account logons were updated
  • More than 1,100 separate tasks were completed to cut-over the systems
  • A core team of 271 people worked over the holiday weekend with support from a further 50 people for distinct processes
  • A significant volume of pizza and chocolate was consumed by the team involved

Find out more about Inland Revenue’s changes at www.changingforyou.ird.govt.nz


Early insights into use of restricted drugs

The first nationwide snapshot of the consumption of restricted drugs indicates the prevalence of methamphetamine use in New Zealand, says Police Minister Stuart Nash.

“The first quarterly analysis of the nationwide wastewater testing programme reinforces the coalition government’s determination to target organised crime,” Mr Nash says.

“We know that methamphetamine causes a huge amount of harm. It is confronting to learn that on average, an estimated 16 kilograms of methamphetamine is used every week.

“This translates to an estimated $20 million per week in social harm. Organised crime groups are primarily responsible for manufacturing, importing and distributing this drug. 

“Police are committed to dismantling the supply of illicit drugs and also work closely with other agencies to help reduce demand, by breaking the cycle of addiction.

“The expanded testing programme is still in its infancy and care must be taken with reading too much into the results of the testing, between November 2018 and January 2019. However, it is clear that methamphetamine use, and the organised crime syndicates behind its distribution, need attention.

“The programme was initially a pilot in three sites but $1 million was set aside in last year’s budget which enabled it to be rolled out to 37 sites nationwide. It tests for methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.

“The wastewater testing cannot pick up traces of synthetic drugs, nor is yet covering cannabis use. The programme tests public sewage schemes for traces of restricted drugs, to provide insight into patterns of use.

“The results are the first real insight we have on drug consumption in both major urban centres and regional communities. I am pleased to see the use of fentanyl remains low. Only 3 grams were consumed on average each week, which includes medically prescribed use.”

“As part of the coalition agreement, more than 700 extra Police are being deployed in dedicated roles as investigators and specialists in detecting and preventing organised and serious crime. This is central to our efforts to enhance the wellbeing of families and communities”, says Mr Nash.


Andrew Little leads NZ delegation on global anti-terrorism taskforce

Justice Minister Andrew Little leaves for the United States today to take part in a global task force that’s tackling terrorism and anti-money laundering.

“I’m looking forward to leading the New Zealand delegation to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Ministerial Meeting in the capital Washington DC on April 12,” says Andrew Little.

 

Continue reading →

Third reading: Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill

Mr Speaker

We have travelled a long way in eight days, since the bill was read a first time.

It has been a punishing schedule for MPs and submitters and public servants who have played a role in this process.

In that time, we have walked in the shoes of a wide cross section of our communities.

Where we have been

Discussions during the eight days of debate on this bill have taken us to the sanctuary of the mosques.

They have allowed us to witness the supreme effort of trauma surgeons in a hospital emergency department.

We have caught a glimpse of family circles now with an empty chair, or two, in their household.

We know there are widows, many widows. There are children who have been to funerals of a sibling, a parent, a grandparent.

There are elderly members of our community who never got a chance to say farewell to an old friend.

As well as the victims and the bereaved, we have walked through the worlds of the gun users and dealers.

  • Women have talked about their lives on farms.
  • We have been taken through the landscape of a high country sheep station,
  • introduced to the atmosphere on rifle ranges, and
  • heard of the wildlife in the mountains and valleys frequented by recreational hunters.

The Police Association reminded us of the everyday reality for frontline cops, listening to instructions and warnings on the radio as they head to a callout, wearing body armour to enable them to walk into danger.

While Parliament has been to these worlds, many other visits have been happening outside this place.

Mr Speaker, families and friends have been tending to the fourteen people still lying in hospital beds recovering from gunshot wounds and other injuries.

That includes a five year old girl at Starship in Auckland, and her father in the hospital next door.

One patient remains in intensive care in Christchurch Hospital.

Others are at Burwood.

Mr Speaker, this legislation is just the first step of many to make our country safer.

The all-of-government response is ongoing.

What else we are doing

Police are acutely aware of how vulnerable and frightened some communities still feel after the terror attack.

They have established a special operation to reach out to these groups to provide reassurance and advice.

They are also responding to the many questions people have about safety and security.

Police have made almost two-thousand visits to schools.

They have made almost 1400 visits to places of worship. These visits are mostly, but not exclusively, to our mosques.

But I’m also aware of a visit made by Police to a Chinese Christian Church, which normally has 150 people at its Sunday service.

Many had stopped coming because of fears and false rumours about threats. Police were able to reassure this congregation.

Fourteen Police officers with specialist cultural knowledge and skills have been deployed to liaise with ethnic communities in Christchurch.

The diversity of our Police force is growing as we rollout 1800 extra officers which means that Police are increasingly drawn from the communities they serve.

They can speak the languages and know about faith and cultural practices.

Police have also made almost 150 visits to gun clubs. This is an important community for Police.

It is worth repeating the assurances given by government from the earliest days:

There are good people in all of our communities who will find themselves in possession of banned firearms, parts and magazines.

This is because we are changing the law, not because these people have done anything wrong.

The amnesty and buyback

That is why we have an amnesty and are putting in place a buyback scheme.

To date, more than three-hundred weapons have been handed over during the amnesty.

More than 1100 online forms have been completed for more weapons and parts to be handed over

There have been 1900 phone calls to the dedicated Police freephone 0800 311311

The amnesty runs to 30 September but I want to remind the House that there is provision to extend that date, by Order in Council, if necessary.

Alongside that amnesty, the buyback will now be structured within a statutory framework.

The framework will provide certainty for all participants and create a transparent system for compensation.

Police have consulted extensively with Australian officials about their experience with almost thirty amnesties and buybacks since the 1990s.

We want to take the time to get it right to avoid some of the pitfalls and legal risks encountered across the Tasman.

Next legislative steps

Mr Speaker, tonight’s third reading completes the passage of the Arms Amendment Bill.

We have begun work on an Arms Amendment No. 2 Bill, which we hope to see around June.

That bill will address some long-debated questions around a gun register, the licensing regime, the system of Police vetting, and the ‘fit and proper person’ test, storage requirements and penalties, amongst other matters.

I hope this House can again come together to work collaboratively on the next stage of reforms.

Acknowledgements

Before I conclude I want to specifically acknowledge two people.

The first is the Prime Minister.

Jacinda Ardern has given us the mandate to respond swiftly to the horror attacks of 15 March.

Opinions will vary of course, but I believe this bill is possibly the most important legacy this government will leave for future generations.

Secondly, I want to acknowledge my Ministerial Advisor Barbara, and her family, who have sacrificed much over the past 26 days.

We have asked a lot of our public servants, officials, and their families since the attacks. They have made this country a safer and better place.

Conclusion

Mr Speaker, to conclude, I acknowledge that in just over two weeks we will be marking ANZAC Day, and Police are busy working with RSAs and Councils to make the occasions as safe as possible.

Traditionally this day remembers those we have lost in war, the military and the civilians.

We remember those who have served our country, and who have worked to make it a safer place, where freedoms are protected.

Of course those freedoms include being free from harm and free of the fear of harm.

Those freedoms include making room for diversity, tolerance, and inclusion.

The day marks the historical ties that will forever link New Zealand, Australia, and our friends in Turkey.

It is an appropriate moment to remind the House of the words of the great Ottoman and Islamic leader, Field Marshall Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

He honoured our war dead who lie buried in Turkey with words which are reproduced on war memorials in Wellington, Canberra, and ANZAC Cove overlooking the Aegean Sea.

He noted:

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference to us between the Johnnies and Mehmets, where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.

Mr Speaker, we embrace those who lost their lives at the mosques.

They are us.

 


Legal framework for gun buyback scheme announced

Police Minister Stuart Nash has announced a legal framework for the gun buyback will be established as a first step towards determining the level of compensation. It will include compensation for high capacity magazines and parts.

Mr Nash has outlined changes to the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill which will be debated during the committee stages of the legislation.

The Supplementary Order Paper reflects changes arising from the Select Committee process. It sets out the framework for dealing with the legal ownership of weapons, magazines and parts and the broad approach for determining payments.  

“The regulations will create a framework to set compensation based on make, model and condition of the items. They will provide for rights of review and appeal,” Mr Nash says.

“Independent advisors will develop the price list for approval by Cabinet. A separate expert panel of advisors will be established to determine fair compensation for high value firearms.

“Police have also consulted extensively with Australian officials to familiarise themselves with the pitfalls and legal risks encountered there. Australia has had almost thirty amnesties and buyback schemes since the 1990s.

“The new measures make it clear that surrendered firearms will be the property of the Crown. Owners will be compensated for them, if the guns were lawfully obtained and the person had the appropriate firearms licence. Price lists will be set out in regulations which are now being drafted.

“This framework provides certainty for all participants in this process and sets out a clear appeal process if the compensation is disputed.

“A number of transitional measures are also being put in place to handle one-off questions.  This includes weapons which were in transit from overseas when the ban took effect. Customs officials may deliver them to Police as part of the amnesty and buyback arrangement.

“Police are already collecting bank account details from people who are taking part in the gun amnesty. They are well placed to begin paying compensation once the scheme is confirmed. I can reassure firearms owners there will be plenty of time for them to hand over their weapons as part of the amnesty and to have their compensation processed under the buyback as well.

“The government has listened closely to official advice about the need to provide statutory authority for decisions and payments under the buyback scheme,” Mr Nash said.

The regulations are expected to be considered by Cabinet in May. If necessary, the amnesty can be extended by a month or so to run alongside the buyback.