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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mr Speaker, as we meet today New Zealand is under a terror threat level of HIGH.
As we meet today, Police are routinely carrying firearms, Bushmaster rifles and Glock pistols, in a significant departure from normal practice.
As we meet today, mosques around the country require heightened security measures and a visible Police presence to ensure safety of worshippers.
As we meet today, the largest criminal investigation in New Zealand history is underway.
Dozens of specialist Police investigators, supported by Australian Federal and State Police, are following up concerns about a number of high risk individuals.
As we meet today, a number of people are before the courts for trying to promote hateful publications and videos of death; for unlawfully possessing weapons; for making threats against our citizens, and, for murder.
Mr Speaker, as we meet today we are driven by one objective.
We are driven by the need to ensure public safety is as strong as it can be.
We are also driven by the memory of fifty men, women and children who were taken from their loved ones on 15 March.
Their memory is our responsibility.
We don’t ever want to see an attack like this in our country again.
We are compelled to act quickly.
The Prime Minister announced the morning after the attacks that gun laws must change.
That now falls to us as individual MPs, and to the whole Parliament.
I am grateful for the support of colleagues across the Chamber.
The attacks in Christchurch exposed the considerable weaknesses in our current firearms law.
The most critical weakness in our firearms law is that too many people have legal access to too many semi-automatic firearms capable of causing significant harm.
The current Act is not fit for purpose
The current Arms Act has a legal definition for military style semi-automatics or MSSAs that is easily circumvented and is difficult in practice to apply.
There are 7,500 firearms licence holders who between them possess approximately 14,000 MSSA firearms.
Many more have semi-automatic firearms in a so-called sporting configuration and are easily converted to a MSSA.
Far too many people in this country have access to these dangerous firearms for no legitimate purpose, but at significant risk to the public.
However, more broadly than this, too many people have legal access to the parts and magazines that, in a single change, can easily convert a semi-automatic firearm into a lethal MSSA, which then has the capacity kill many people very quickly.
So today, we are debating legislation that will substantively tighten the current open and easy access to semi-automatic firearms, to make our country a safer place.
Our current firearms legislation came into force 35 years ago.
It dates from the 1980s, a time when New Zealand was more isolated from the rest of the world.
There were strong import controls and no internet market place or social media.
Since this time, firearms technology has shifted, the weapons market has become global and there is a significant online community and trading environment.
To bring the firearms legislation more up to date and substantially reduce loopholes and risk, major change is needed.
This Bill takes the first steps to modernise the Act.
Banning of assault rifles and MSSAs
It will restrict access to the number of assault rifles and MSSAs, associated parts, and large capacity magazines in New Zealand.
We want to remove firearms that are capable of causing the death and devastation we witnessed on 15 March.
We are also banning parts of a prohibited firearm, or any part that can enable a weapon to be fired as a semi-automatic or fully automatic firearm.
There are legitimate uses for firearms
It is important to reiterate the legislation is not directed at law-abiding firearms owners who have legitimate uses for their guns.
Our actions are instead directed at making sure March 15 never happens again.
Semi-automatic firearms which are commonly used for hunting, pest control, stock management on farms, and duck shooting will not be affected.
People can still use .22 calibre rifle with a maximum 10-round magazine, and semi-automatic and pump-action shotgun with a maximum 5-round magazine.
These firearms are widely and safely used amongst our farming and hunting communities.
Indeed today the Game Animal Council has confirmed that recreational and commercial hunting of large game animals, such as deer, pig, tahr and chamois, will be largely unaffected.
There will be a small number of tightly controlled exemptions for professional animal cullers and licensed firearms dealers.
Those groups or individuals identified as “management agencies” in section 100 of the Biosecurity Act, can apply to the Commissioner of Police for a permit to possess a prohibited firearm.
This will include the sort of pest control work undertaken by contractors for the Department of Conservation or a local council.
Those applying will need to demonstrate they will only use the firearm for that purpose stated, and must demonstrate that they cannot do the work with any other firearm.
I know already that Federated Farmers and professional animal control groups would like to ensure that applies to pest control on private land too, and the Select Committee will take advice on that.
While these types of semi-automatics do not present the same level of risk to the public as MSSAs, nevertheless they can cause harm.
We have already signalled that we will be doing further work on strengthening the Arms Act in a future Amendment Bill, including the criteria around who can get a firearms licence.
The Bill also proposes an exemption for bona fide collectors, including Museums, and for film and theatre companies.
They must take steps to disable the weapon and follow other guidelines around security and safety, including storage.
Mr Speaker, the exemptions I have described come with considerable checks and balances around them.
Owning a firearm is a privilege, not a right.
We need to remove the most dangerous weapons from our community.
The Bill proposes the introduction of a number of new offences.
This includes possessing, using, presenting, supplying, selling, manufacturing and assembling a banned firearm.
The offences attract penalties ranging from up to 3 years imprisonment to 10 years imprisonment, depending on the nature and seriousness of the offence.
We know this law change will have an impact on law-abiding firearms licence holders.
That’s why we have confirmed details of the amnesty, and are working on fair and reasonable compensation through a buyback scheme.
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.
Given this, the Government is putting an amnesty in place.
This will allow people to let the Police know if they are in possession of newly banned firearm, part or magazine.
The Amnesty also means any other firearm, magazine, parts and ammunition not affected by the ban can also be handed over.
Police are already working with the NZ Defence Force around storage, transport and safe destruction of these weapons.
The Government recognises that people have invested money in these firearms.
Running alongside the amnesty, the Government will implement a buyback scheme for the newly banned firearms which are surrendered.
The Government is currently working on the details of the buy-back scheme and will make announcements shortly.
The underlying principle is that fair and reasonable compensation will be paid.
It will take into account the age and type of weapon, and the market value. It is estimated it will cost between $100 million and $200 million.
This range is wide because we do not have an accurate picture of how many of these weapons are out there.
We recognise it is a substantial amount of money but we are committed to doing this.
We will find the money to do this because it’s about making New Zealanders safe.
We will remove these guns from our communities
The Government is taking action
Mr Speaker, the primary duty of Government is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its citizens; and to allow them the ability to go about their lives free from harm and free from the fear of harm.
The select committee process will be used to ensure we have got the balance right between legitimate use of firearms, and tightening gun laws to improve the safety and security of all New Zealanders.
Just before I close I also want to pay tribute to the brave, compassionate and dedicated women and men of the New Zealand Police service.
Over the past few weeks they have shown why we have one of the best Police services in the world.
Our thoughts remain with our Muslim communities and the people of Christchurch.
We are doing this for them. We are doing this for our future generations.
Economic ties between New Zealand and China are being strengthened with the successful negotiation of a new taxation treaty.
The double tax agreement was signed by New Zealand’s Ambassador to China and by the Commissioner of the State Taxation Administration of China, at a signing ceremony in Beijing witnessed by the Prime Minister.
“An update to the existing Double Tax Agreement (DTA) will reduce barriers to cross-border trade and investment,” says Revenue Minister Stuart Nash.
“DTAs provide greater certainty of tax treatment, especially for cross-border investment flows such as dividends, interest, and royalties. The new DTA will reduce the withholding rates on certain dividends and eliminate double taxation.
“The new agreement also enhances the ability of both countries to detect and prevent tax evasion. It will contribute to the overall integrity of the New Zealand tax system.
“China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner in goods and one of our largest investment partners. Anything we can do to cooperate and smooth business between our two nations is hugely valuable.
“The new tax agreement is also significant in the ongoing fight against base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) by multinationals. Significantly, this tax agreement with our largest trading partner will also include new anti-BEPS measures. These include measures to prevent companies structuring their activity to avoid taxation on profits.
“Double tax agreements make it less costly for a business in one country to do business and invest in the other” says Mr Nash.
The new DTA replaces a 1986 agreement with a more modern set of rules and ensures that our bilateral framework for taxing cross-border economic activity remains up to date and fit for purpose. It will be brought into force through an exchange of diplomatic notes with China.