More than 80 newly-banned firearms have been handed over to police at Kaitaia's first gun buyback event, making a total for Northland so far of just under 700.

The buyback, at the Kaitaia RSA on Tuesday afternoon, is one of 21 taking place around Northland in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack and a new law prohibiting most semi-automatic weapons.

Police sergeant Ryan Gray, who was in charge of the Kaitaia buyback, said the response from Northland gun owners had been "phenomenal".

So far 690 guns had been handed in across Northland, including 82 in Kaitaia by 42 people, with two-thirds of collection events still to go. One Kaitaia owner had given up 20 firearms, he said.

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Sergeant Gray said Kaitaia gun owners had also handed over 152 accessories including scopes and high-capacity magazines, making a total of 1180 so far across the region.

One collector, elsewhere in Northland, had even given up a vintage anti-aircraft gun. That weapon was not in working order and, given its size, the owner had phoned police to arrange collection rather than taking it to a buyback event.

Most of the surrendered firearms were semi-automatic rifles but there had also been a "significant number" of semi-automatic shotguns and firearms capable of being modified to make them illegal.

The reactions of gun owners varied, Sergeant Gray said.

"For some people handing over their firearm is like handing over their first-born. Some are absolutely gutted. You can see it, and feel it, when they're sitting across the desk from you — but firearms owners are good and proper people, and most of them get why the government has gone ahead with making these firearms prohibited."

"That's why they're here, to prove to the non gun-holding community that they are doing the right and lawful thing."

Guns handed over by the public at another gun buyback event. Photo / File
Guns handed over by the public at another gun buyback event. Photo / File

Gun owners who spoke to the Northland Age also expressed mixed views.

A hunter bringing in two semi-automatic rifles said he had inherited one and been given another by a family member.

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"I'm happy to see them gone. They should never have come into the country," he said.
Another man, however, was upset as he arrived with three newly banned guns.

"It's a bit of a sore spot. I don't want to talk about it," he said.

A farmer who handed in a .223 semi-automatic he used to shoot Canada geese said the price he was paid — 90 per cent of its new value — was fair.

"I'm not too unhappy. It's just one of those things."

In future he would use a bolt action rifle instead, he said.

Sergeant Gray said expert assessors examined the firearms and came to an agreement with the owner on compensation, which was set at 90, 70 or 20 per cent of the gun's new value, depending on condition. The money was paid into the owner's bank account within 10 days.

The surrendered weapons were held securely and there was no chance of them being stolen and used for criminal purposes because they were rendered inoperable, by bending the barrel and working parts, before they left the collection site.

Later they would be transported to a central point and cut up into pieces, he said.

Police were also holding a gun amnesty for people who didn't have a firearms licence or had acquired guns unlawfully. They could be handed over with no questions asked but no compensation would be paid. About 20 guns had been handed over in Northland as part of the amnesty.

Ammunition was not part of the buyback but some people had brought in old or damaged ammo which would be disposed of by the Defence Force.

Sergeant Gray urged anyone planning to take part in a buyback event to register first at www.police.govt.nz to speed up the process.

He said the government was about to release a list of approved gunsmiths who could modify some currently illegal firearms, for example by reducing the magazine size, to make them legal. The government would cover the cost of modifications up to $300.

A second Kaitaia buyback will take place at the RSA from 3-7pm on September 11.

Unlike some buybacks elsewhere in the country the Kaitaia event was deliberately low-key. Police were stationed at the entrance but weren't armed with rifles.

■ The other Far North buybacks are at Kaeo Rugby Club, 3-7pm, August 8; Bledisloe Domain, Haruru, 3-7pm, August 16; Lindvart Park, Kaikohe, 11am-3pm, August 25; Broadwood Community Hall, 3-7pm, September 10; Kerikeri Sports Complex, 3-7pm, September 17; Lindvart Park, Kaikohe, 11am-3pm, September 29.