Fish & game disagrees, but the Coalition of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO) and the Act Party insist that the government's banning of 'enhanced penetration ammunition' will spell the end for duck shooting as a sport, and renders anyone who possesses such ammunition a criminal.

Fish & Game says its interpretation of the Arms (Prohibited Ammunition) Order 2019 is that does not prohibit steel shotgun ammunition, but refers to rifle ammunition with a steel core, designed to penetrate body armour.

"We would be shocked if the environmental benefits of steel shot were outlawed," a spokesman said.

COLFO's Nicole McKee said a legal opinion from Wellington firm Franks Ogilvie took a different view.

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"We wish the law was what Fish & Game claim, but it simply isn't," the opinion said.

"We've asked the Minister to change the law so it is along the lines Fish & Game state — indeed what they say is simply repeating what the police claim, and may now wish the Order said.

"Of course, for practical purposes people can take comfort that they are unlikely to be prosecuted if the police say they won't, but that is not the point. The law is what Parliament passes, and the Governor-General signs.

"Those disciplines are fundamental to the difference between the police determining what the law of the land is (a police state), or living under the rule of law."

For those "interested in detail," it added, the Order made no exclusion for shotgun ammunition.

"We made it plain that the Order would not have been intended to cover shotgun cartridges. We know the police website now says it does not. But as the law is written, it does ...

"There has been similar police invention over the moratorium on criminal liability for possessing the (badly defined) prohibited ammunition. Police said it expired on September 30, but if people report what they have, it will continue until the ammunition is collected by police. That is not what Regulation 28Z says. As written, from October 1 all people who hold it are liable to two years in prison. The police can't waive that. The Order in Council is so badly written that police have been pretending to have powers the regulation does not give them."

Since 2004, most hunters who use 10 or 12-gauge shotguns have been required to use non-toxic shot when hunting waterfowl within 200m of open water, Fish & Game saying on its website that the ban would be strictly enforced. from next season those using gauges must also use non-toxic, and from 2021 non-toxic shot will be required for waterfowl hunting over open water with all shotguns except the .410.

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