The lives of thousands of unsuspecting aircraft passengers have been placed at risk this year by people targeting planes with high-powered handheld lasers.

Seventeen aircraft were struck by such lasers in the first five weeks of this year, say Civil Aviation Authority records.

The latest reported incident was on February 3, when a flight from Brisbane was targeted by a green laser on its approach to Auckland.

That same day, an aircraft was targeted by a green laser originating from the Papamoa Beach Camp area.


Large, commercial aircraft were most commonly targeted.

The offending has prompted new legislation, which came into force on Saturday, to tackle the offending.

As of March 1, the sale of such lasers has been restricted to those with a legitimate use, such as astronomers. Under the legislation, anyone wanting to import, sell or acquire high-powered lasers would need to apply to the Ministry of Health for approval, Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said.

"There were 119 strikes in 2013, the highest ever in a calendar year, and up from single figures in 2006.

"These strikes can also cause temporary flash blindness, which poses a serious risk to pilots. High-powered laser pointers can also cause eye injuries, even blindness, and skin burns."

A Jetstar spokesman said they regarded the pointing of lasers at aircraft as highly irresponsible and welcomed the new legislation.

Air New Zealand spokeswoman Brigitte Ransom said the new regulations were a positive step in mitigating the risks.