More than 500,000 firearms, worth $242 million, have been legally imported into New Zealand over the past decade, newly obtained figures have revealed.

Around 55,000 new firearms - including high-powered hunting rifles, shotguns, pistols, semi-automatic weapons, and restricted airguns - come into the country every year, according to data obtained from Customs under the Official Information Act (OIA).

The Police Association is calling for an official police inquiry into where the guns are coming from.

Police said they believe there are around 1.5 million guns in New Zealand. There are around 230,000 licensed firearms owners.


The new Customs figures show that since 2005, on average, 55,000 firearms come into New Zealand every year.

And since 2009, Customs officials have intercepted 3659 firearms at the border. The number has spiked since the Arms (Military Style Semi-automatic Firearms and Import Controls) Amendment Act 2012 came into force in December 2013, which means starting pistols, restricted airguns and restricted weapons now require a permit to import.

University of Canterbury criminologist Greg Newbold was surprised at the sheer number of firearms being imported annually, but he didn't think it would cause a gun-crime boom.

"It won't appear to have an impact on the safety of police or the average New Zealander. The people who buy guns are collectors, hunters and gun nuts."

Most firearms used by the criminal underworld are "cheap guns", like .22 calibre rifles and sawn-off shotguns, Professor Newbold said.

David Tipple, owner of New Zealand's largest firearms dealer Gun City, refused to say how many firearms his company imports every year.

"I don't see the point in the discussion," he said.

New Zealand's firearms legislation and firearms crime record, he said, is "to be admired by the rest of the world".


"We have a lot of firearms. New Zealand has one of the highest rates [of gun ownership] per capita in the world and we're good with it - it's not doing any harm," said Mr Tipple.

The police national manager for response and operations, Superintendent Chris Scahill, said firearms-related offending remains "consistently very low" - accounting for an average of 1.3 per cent of all violent offending over the past five years.

"New Zealand has a robust firearms control regime, which has been in place for about 30 years and is supported by international experience and best practice," he said.

"The regime is focused on ensuring those who use firearms are fit and proper people to do so."