The Government aims to free email inboxes from unwanted spam messages with the tabling in Parliament of a bill that would make it illegal to send them.
The legislation, which has long been in the works, will allow fines of up to $500,000 for organisations sending out unsolicited email messages in bulk and up to $200,000 for individuals.
As only 10 per cent of spam is generated locally, the bill will look to build a framework for co-operation with overseas authorities to shut down spammers operating abroad.
Internet users will complain in the first instance to their internet provider about spam email, and the Department of Internal Affairs will act as an internet watchdog if the matter is taken further.
The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill is unlikely to meet opposition in the House as it proposes an "opt-in" system for subscribing to email lists that has proved popular among anti-spam legislators around the world.
But its tabling in Parliament now appears to be a move by the Government to show leadership in an area of policy that so far has received no special election-year attention.
The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, David Cunliffe, used a speech at the Telecommunications Users Association conference in Wellington yesterday to attack National and its former communications minister Maurice Williamson on their track record in communications.
Cunliffe said he was looking to South Korea, one of the most switched-on countries in the world, for inspiration in developing a strategy for the country.
"Would any of [Korea's success] have happened if Maurice Williamson had been transferred to South Korea?
"Not a snowflake's chance," he said.
But progress on anti-spam legislation was the only ray of light for conference-goers.
They claim the Government, and Telecommunications Commissioner Douglas Webb, have not done enough to stimulate competition in the market for high-speed internet services.
The industry talkfest had Telecom's competitors despondent about the state of competition and a "digital strategy" that one internet boss labelled "insipid".
* Three-quarters of email received by New Zealanders is spam.
* Ten per cent of spam originates from local sources.
* Fines of up to $500,000 for organisations and $200,000 for individuals could be imposed under the legislation.By Peter Griffin Email Peter