HAMISH WALKER MP CLUTHA-SOUTHLAND
If a pilot’s safety is at risk, so is the safety of all the passengers on board.
It’s why I introduced my private member’s bill - the High-Power Laser Pointers Offences and Penalties Bill, so pilots and passengers are not at risk of being unsafe due to high-powered lasers.
My bill will amend the existing offence provisions and increase penalties for the use and possession of high-power laser pointers.
There is a clear need for tougher penalties around the use of high-power lasers.
It’s been highlighted by the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association, which has publicly supported tougher penalties following ongoing incidents involving high-power lasers being pointed at aircraft.
My bill proposes to double the term of imprisonment available from three months to six months, and double the maximum fine from $2,000 to $4,000 for possession of high-power laser pointers.
My bill will also see the requirement of possession in a public place in order to be penalised removed, extending the offence to anyone being in possession without reasonable excuse and will make the confiscation of a laser pointer minority, not just optional conviction.
Other amendments include allowing higher penalties under the Health Act 1956 for breaches of the regulations around supply and acquisition of laser pointers and making it explicit that interference with a transport facility under the Crimes Act 1961 includes the use of high-power laser pointers to interfere with aircraft.
My bill will allow any aircraft crew member to perform their duties without interference, ensuring that aircraft safety remains at the highest standard possible for both passengers and crew members.
The problem we are facing now is the issue does not stop with high-power laser pointers, as drones are becoming an ever-increasing safety risk also.
Queenstown airport, in particular, is regularly recording drones being seen in airspace which is of increasing concern to both residents and pilots.
All we have to do is look at the start of this month when choppers were grounded in Omarama while fighting a fire because of a drone.
It’s a wider health and safety issue than just those on board the helicopters, or in other cases planes, but public on the ground if something goes wrong.
As technology develops, we need to move with the times, so devices like high-power laser pointers and drones do not risk safety in the air.
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