Police warn Govt of ‘high’ gun buyback cost

Official advice on a proposed gun buyback scheme concedes the cost will be “high”, but the Government is still no closer to working out the total bill or how they will cover it.

The information is contained in an interim supplementary analysis report from the NZ Police analysing the costs and benefits of the Arms Amendment Bill, which will have its first reading on Tuesday afternoon.

Newsroom has obtained an early copy of the document, which will be published later on Tuesday. It repeats the current assessment of the cost of a buyback as between $100 million to $200m, but gives scant detail on how the buyback might operate.  

The document says police currently developing the criteria for the scheme, while the Treasury and Inland Revenue are “determining the funding source...and the manner in which the payment will be made”.

It does not elaborate on how the scheme might be funded and whether Inland Revenue's work extends to working on a levy or tax to fund the scheme.

The paper notes that Inland Revenue is working on “developing a system to issue compensation payments under the buyback scheme”, with Finance Minister Grant Robertson confirming on Tuesday morning that all funding options were on the table.

That could include a new tax or targeted levy, reprioritising existing spending, or increasing government borrowing.

National finance spokeswoman Amy Adams said she would like to see spending cuts in other areas rather than increased borrowing or taxes, citing the Government’s “wasteful” spending on its fees-free tertiary education scheme.

The Treasury has also detailed other costs that will be borne by the Government, including the cost to NZTA of transporting the weapons and to the NZ Defence Force (NZDF) of storing and ultimately destroying them.

National finance spokeswoman Amy Adams says the Government should reprioritise funding from other areas to cover the cost of a gun buyback, rather than turning to new taxes or borrowing. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

It appears the NZDF will keep the weapons at its bases before destroying them, although the document contains limited details on these parts of the scheme. 

The paper notes that “many pieces of work on the bill are being done concurrently and the final details [were] being worked on right up until the bill is due to Cabinet on 1 April for its consideration".

"Without these, it is difficult to identify with accuracy the impacts and risks of the proposal.

“This equally applies to details on the buyback scheme which is unlikely to be fully resolved until after the bill is introduced to Parliament."

One group likely to be particularly hard hit by the legislation will be gun dealers, who will not be compensated under the buyback. 

The paper says these businesses will face “medium/high” and "high” costs, with dealers required to return stock that can no longer be widely sold in New Zealand.

If dealers are reimbursed the purchase price for the stock, they will still have to wear the cost of importing the guns to New Zealand and then re-exporting them to the suppliers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had previously warned gun dealers would be expected to return banned weapons to their suppliers. 

There have also been reports of panic buying of weapons, which could suggest the amount of outstanding stock at certain retailers is low.

Treasury also notes there will be some cases in which it is no longer economical to return stock to suppliers, and the cost of the stock will have to be completely worn by dealers. 

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