Grant Robertson and Winston Peters at odds over gun buyback cost

The Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister seem to be at odds over how much the Government's gun buyback scheme will cost. 

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced changes to New Zealand's gun laws last month after the Christchurch shooting, she said the cost of the buyback scheme would be around $100-$200 million. 

But Ardern's deputy, Winston Peters, seems to think the cost could be much higher. He told RNZ on Tuesday that the gun buyback "could cost up to $300 million, to set what is wrong, right". 

The Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, doesn't agree. When asked on Tuesday if Peters' $300 million estimate is correct, he said: "Well, no."

"What [Peters is] reflecting on is that we actually don't know how many of these guns there are. We've had estimates more in the $100-$200 million range," Robertson said. 

He said Peters was reflecting on the "uncertainty" of the price of the gun buyback scheme, given that the Government does not know for sure how many guns there are in New Zealand. 

"Obviously that depends on a number of factors such as the number of weapons, which of course, we can't be sure of," Robertson said. 

Winston Peters and Grant Robertson.
Winston Peters and Grant Robertson. Photo credit: Newshub

"What I can commit to as the person who's responsible for the money, is that we will make sure we work through this thoroughly and get an accurate assessment of the costs, and that will no doubt be reflected in the Budget."

He said the "unforeseen cost" of the buyback scheme will be factored into the Budget process, and that the scheme will be considered as part of the 2019 Budget. 

When asked if the Government has enough money to fund the scheme, he said: "It's my job as the Minister of Finance to work out how we put the whole Budget together and this will be part of that."

Robertson added: "We're looking at what are the sources of funding for this, along with what constitutes a fair and reasonable price and how we'll manage the entire programme."

Police and Treasury are working on the details of the buyback. The underlying principle is that fair and reasonable compensation will be paid, and it will take into account the age and type of weapon as well as market value. 

Police Minister Stuart Nash, who introduced the Arms Amendment Bill on Monday, said on Tuesday he is working with Robertson to determine a price for the buyback scheme, looking at details such as how weapons will be valued. 

Nash's Bill is expected to become law next Friday on April 12, and from that point, those who already own the illegal firearms would have until September 30 under an amnesty period to hand over their weapons to police for a "fair" price. 

"We do understand that there are many in the community who bought these rifles in good faith, they will now be illegal, so we will treat them in a fair and reasonable way," Nash said. 

When the amnesty period finishes, anyone found in possession one of the illegal firearms would face tougher penalties

Measures likely to be introduced in the next Arms Amendment Bill last this year include a firearms register and a police inspection and monitoring regime, such as rules around storage of firearms.