Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Hunters warned over bright gear

Experts says gun owners have been misled into thinking colourful clothing will make them visible in the bush

Mitchell Maxberry says bright clothing cannot be seen in dim light, and he is backed up by a vision expert. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Mitchell Maxberry says bright clothing cannot be seen in dim light, and he is backed up by a vision expert. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Hunters have been misled into thinking bright-coloured clothing is safe in the bush because of a badly worded question in the firearms licence test, a former instructor says.

Former Mountain Safety Council firearms instructor Mitchell Maxberry says bright clothing cannot be seen in dim light, and he is backed up by a vision expert.

Mr Maxberry was so concerned he emailed the Mountain Safety Council and the police seven years ago about a question in the firearms test which said: "To reduce the risk of being shot accidentally while hunting, especially in dim light conditions, it is advisable to ..."

The correct answer from the multichoice list was to wear brightly coloured gear.

"You do not see colours in dim light," Mr Maxberry said yesterday.

In response to that email, police licensing and vetting manager Inspector Joe Green said: "Maybe [the test] does need review in light of more recent research."

But he said it was police and safety council advice that a wise hunter would wear bright colours such as cobalt blue and high-visibility orange.

"I am happy to review the question in the next reprint [unless someone else is offering to pay for the destruction of the old forms - about $7000]," he said in the email.

Mr Green was not available for comment yesterday but a police spokesman said the question was originally written in response to concerns raised by two coroners asking that wearing of high-visibility garments be highlighted in the arms test.

"We accept that the question is lessthan perfect, and police and MSC arenow reviewing it as part of a widerreview of the test questions."

Safety council spokesman Mike Spray said the question could be reworded or taken out. The review was being done in part because some of the questions were ambiguous and the words were confusing for people with literacy issues.

Mr Spray did not agree that bright colours were not seen in dimly lit conditions and said the reason people were killed was because hunters did not properly identify their targets.

Auckland University senior lecturer in optometry and vision science Misha Vorobyev said that in the early dawn or later dusk hours, colour vision becames "less sensitive" because of the low light.

"[Colours] become shades of grey."

He disagreed with police advice that cobalt blue should be one of the recommended colours for hunters. Blue was one of the worst colours to wear in dim light because it was very difficult to discern.

"Particularly in dawn and dusk the colours of everything change and you begin to see beautiful colours of rocks and so on, but it also leads to misleading judgments about what colour it is."

Dr Vorobyev said the best colour to wear while hunting was bright yellow or orange, which could be seen for the longest period of time, but even those colours would eventually become shades of grey.

Three hunters have died in accidents in the past year alone, with 12 deaths in the past decade.


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