APEC 2021: Greens oppose law letting foreign security agents carry restricted weapons

The Greens have opposed a law that would give temporary expanded powers to foreign security agents in New Zealand during the Auckland-hosted APEC 2021 event. 

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC 2021) Bill passed its first reading this week, with support from Labour, National and New Zealand First - but the Greens voted against it citing "overreach" concerns. 

"New Zealand's existing laws should be enough to provide for security of visitors during APEC," Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said. "We should prioritise the rights and security of the New Zealand public rather than expand powers that put us at risk."

ACT leader David Seymour also voted against the legislation, but only because of ACT's policy to oppose Government Bills unless the Government asks for support, in which case he would consider doing so.

The purpose of the proposed law is to "ensure the security of all involved in APEC 2021, as well as the security of media and members of the public". 

The legislation - which would expire at the end of November 2021 - says foreign protection officers would be able to "apply for the authority to carry and possess a specified weapon during the leaders' event period, along with a permit to import the weapon".

Ghahraman said a time when New Zealand is reforming domestic gun laws it "doesn't make sense to move the other way for this meeting".

"We know that both here and overseas, force is most commonly used against persons of colour, so certain communities are going to be put at most risk."

The Bill's sponsor, Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, said the temporary law would support New Zealand's security preparations for hosting the event, last held in Auckland in 1999. 

"Up to 20,000 visitors are expected throughout the year, including world leaders, ministers and international media," Peters said. 

"This Bill will ensure the New Zealand Police has the resources it needs, as well as provide temporary security and safety measures around key meeting locations during the leaders' event."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed last month that APEC will still be held in Auckland, despite the destruction caused by a massive blaze at the New Zealand International Convention Centre. 

The Greens' refusal to support the APEC Bill is reminiscent of last month when the party didn't at first support a proposed anti-terror law that would give police the ability to impose control orders on returning Kiwis involved in terrorism.  

The Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill began in a similar way to the APEC Bill, with Labour, National and New Zealand First supporting it and the Greens opposed. 

But negotiations broke down between National leader Simon Bridges and Justice Minister Andrew Little and its first reading was initially delayed. 

The Greens were then in a position to negotiate the changes they wanted to the legislation and the Justice Minister was willing to give them want they wanted.

Ghahraman told Newshub the situation is different this time because National decided to support the APEC Bill as a caucus and there were no sour negotiations, therefore Labour and NZ First don't need the Greens' support.

"If the National Party pulled their support, we do have very serious concerns about the APEC Bill as we did about the control orders Bill," Ghahraman said.

But she said it's a bit more black and white this time.

She said the Greens would only support the Bill "if we don't allow restricted weapons held by foreign agents who are not trained by us and don't work in our communities".

"Our position on the APEC Bill is that New Zealand's own security laws and policing are enough."