Fisheries officers angry they will not be armed

The union representing fisheries officers is angry members will not be allowed to carry batons and pepper spray.

Martin Cooney, organiser of the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) said the Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton had decided against supporting a proposal for fisheries officers to carry retractable batons and pepper spray.

He said Mr Anderton in a letter to the union stated fisheries officers had no duty to maintain public order and should withdraw from dangerous situations and call police for support.

Mr Cooney said fisheries officers had waited three years for a government response on the issue.

"Fisheries officers face regular situations where offenders threaten them with knives, gaffs, spearguns, cars and two recent incidents with an axe and steel chain," said Mr Cooney today.

He said the proposal for fisheries officers to carry batons and pepper spray was for the officer to effect a withdrawal.

Speaking today on National Radio, Mr Anderton said he did not think there was any good reason to arm the officers, saying it would only increase violence.

"This isn't the only profession that want to be armed - there will be lots of others - and once you start with batons and pepper spray and that doesn't work, where do you go then? Guns? Well, not on my watch."

Mr Cooney said fisheries officers believed Mr Anderton had received poor advice on the matter.

He said the union would be seeking an immediate meeting with Mr Anderton to challenge the material on which the decision was based.

Mr Anderton said he was happy to meet with the union, but it would have to have better arguments than he has seen so far.

- NZPA

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