The Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO) has asked the Police Minister to audit the proposed fee increases for firearm license holders after revelations Police may have exaggerated its costs to administer the license regime.
Police have not published an explanation for how the proposed fee increases were derived, months after it was promised (February). Consultation on the proposed fee options is now closed.
The increase in fees for firearm license holders is supposed to recover costs incurred by Police in administering the regulations.
However, the proposed fees for activities like license renewals are far higher than the likely cost to Police, says COLFO spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack.
“If the highest fee proposal is accurate, which the Police claim it is, that means the Police numbers show it takes a Police staffer 35 hours to process one license application – almost a full week of work.”
“This doesn’t seem plausible – a standard license renewing process should only take 8 hours.
“If we’re right, and it’s not true, then where are those extra costs coming from? The Police haven’t told us, and we doubt they’ve told the Minister.”
The Government recently reduced driver license fees after a review of Waka Kotahi’s funding found the average cost of getting or renewing a license was set higher than the cost of providing the service.
“The reduction in driver’s license fees shows Government agencies do get their calculations wrong,” says Devereux-Mack.
“The same overcharging seems to be present in the firearm license fees proposed by Police, and the costs should be similarly reviewed.”
Devereux-Mack says COLFO has asked Police Minister Ginny Andersen to investigate how the firearms licensing costs were derived, and to do it before the first new fee is paid.
“The consultation is now closed, and Police still haven’t cited any of the costs they are recovering for what they call a ‘cost recovery’ programme.
“Without justification, the numbers look made-up, and for many licensed firearm owners the proposed increases feel like a con.
“For her own peace of mind, the Minister should audit the cost recovery and verify these numbers with Police.
“Once the first new fee is paid it will be incredibly difficult for Police to turn around and redo the costings.”
Devereux-Mack says whatever answer the Police give will reveal a problem.
“If the numbers have been made-up by Police, the Minister will need to review the whole process.”
“If the numbers are true, and it really does take Police 35 hours of work to process a license, that is unacceptable, and the Minister has a serious culture and workforce issue on her hands.
“The Minister will find an underlying sentiment within Police that licensed firearm owners are an easy target for punitive rules and collection of moneys.
Devereux-Mack says this was shown when the Police Association recently refused to publish a COLFO article informing members of the lack of data behind the proposals, and Police advice to Government that the fees would lead to safety risks for frontline officers.
“The anti-firearm owner sentiment apparently even overrides the risk to frontline officers of more firearms disappearing and potentially making their way into criminal hands, which was revealed in a briefing to the Minister in January.”
Devereux-Mack says licensed firearm owners realise the fees should increase but increasing them by almost 500 percent is extraordinary.
“The extreme increases proposed, despite the roll-on effect it could have for frontline Police, is a strong indication that Police want licensed firearm owners punished, no matter what the repercussions may be.”