New laws to crack down on hand-held lasers

The green laser was shone into the cockpit of the Northland rescue helicopter. File photo / Greg Bowker
The green laser was shone into the cockpit of the Northland rescue helicopter. File photo / Greg Bowker

New laws will crack down on hand-held lasers being imported, sold and supplied in New Zealand, in the wake of court cases against people who used them to distract pilots.

The Government will introduce new legislation to put stricter rules on the ``powerful'' hand-held lasers which are cheap, easy to obtain and can be sold with little information about hazards and safe use, Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said today.

"The Government will introduce new regulations to control the importation of these dangerous devices and restrict their use to authorised users who have a legitimate purpose such as astronomers, researchers and the NZ Defence Force,'' Ms Goodhew said.

"High-power laser pointers can cause eye injuries - even blindness - and skin burns. ACC accepts around 10 claims a year for these injuries.''

Their ability to cause temporary flash blindness has been the subject of multiple court cases in recent months where people have been convicted for pointing lasers into the cockpit of the police Eagle helicopter.

Ms Goodhew said the Civil Aviation Authority reported about 100 laser strikes on planes each year.

She said the new legislation, which was being drafted and was expected to be in place by the end of the year, would not cover low-power laser pointers used as presentation aids or those used with survey instruments or rifle sights.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association said the new regulations should be introduced "in the most prompt and robust manner''.

"Access to these lasers has been a concern for the association and our members for quite some time, and we have been very vocal around the dangers to aircraft and the travelling public,'' president Glen Kenny said.

He said the Government still had to deal with the issue of lasers that were bought before the new regulations take effect.

- APNZ

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