The promoter of a bill proposing harsher penalties for reckless use of high powered lasers says he's disappointed the Government is ''playing politics over aviation safety".

Pilots say they are also frustrated by the Government's lack of action on the issue.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the Government won't support Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker's members bill to double penalties for maliciously using lasers because it didn't tackle the main issue - the difficulty tracking culprits.

High-powered laser attacks can distract or in extreme cases potentially blind crew and they are increasing.


Walker said while his proposed harsher penalties may not prevent all laser attacks, it would be a deterrent.

''How long do we have to wait before there's a major accident that costs lives before the Government acts? It's disappointing that the Government would rather play politics over the safety of hundreds of lives,'' the National MP said.

His bill was drawn from the ballot last year and proposes to double the term of imprisonment for the offence from three months to six months, and double the maximum fine from $2000 to $4000 for possession of high-power laser pointers.

Between 2014 and 2018, a total of 717 laser incidents were reported to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

They have grown from 87 in 2015 to 228 last year.

Helicopters and airliners have been targeted by lasers which police have said are of major concern and have led to prosecutions.

Twyford today told the Herald through a spokesman the Government recognised that malicious use of high-powered lasers posed a threat to aviation safety.

Since 2014 when the former Government put in restrictions on the import and availability of the devices, there has been a reduction in the availability of laser pointers but an increase in incidents being reported.


''Our Government believes that Hamish Walker's Bill will not make a difference as it only proposes to increase the penalties, rather than tackling the main issue. The problem is the difficulty in identifying and apprehending someone who is using a laser pointer unsafely.''

There was no ready-made solution but the Government would ''continue to monitor the issue,'' look to international best practice and enforce the rules to reduce the availability of lasers.

Pilots say laser strikes can occur at altitudes above 30,000 feet and are especially dangerous around airports where aircraft are in critical stages of flight - take-off and landing.

They say the laser light can then ''bounce around the cockpit".

Lasers have also been pointed at staff in air traffic control towers.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association said today it was ''very frustrated'' at the response to the bill.


''Anything that draws attention to this very serious threat needs to be supported while we move to total prohibition to get us into line with jurisdictions overseas,'' an association spokeswoman said.

''We shouldn't have to wait for a tragic accident to occur before we have some movement.''

The association would continue to seek answers from the Government on what its plan was to tackle the problem, she said.