Jacinda Ardern says approval of export of gun suppressors to Israel won't lead to commercial arrangement

The Prime Minister says firearms technology approved for export from a New Zealand company to Israel won't be used in the current conflict in the region.

As chaos ensues in the Middle East with Israel and Gaza peltering each other with strikes, it's been revealed "a small number of firearms suppressors" were approved for export as samples for "evaluation purposes by an Israeli company".

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) spokesperson told Newshub no weapons had been exported and it "advised the exporter that we would not allow the export of suppressors for sale to private or government users in Israel based on our end-user assessment criteria".

When assessing applications, MFAT says it considers whether any equipment could be used to contribute to human rights abuses as well as any reputational risks by association with entities or countries. 

At her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday afternoon, Jacinda Ardern said the technology won't make its way into the current conflict.

"[MFAT] have advised they had an application from a company to provide five samples to an Israeli company," Ardern said.

"The export order regime, of course, is built around the idea of products being provided for a commercial arrangement and an end-user. This arrangement did not include either because they were samples. 

"MFAT rightly made it clear to the company in question they should not bother because approval would not be given for these to be used or sold to either private companies or the government for military purposes.

Under the Customs and Excise Act, the export of any "strategic goods" - which includes firearms, military goods and technologies - are prohibited unless a permit is obtained from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 

"New Zealand's export control system is a significant thread in our commitment to restricting the ability of countries or terrorist groups to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to prevent the transfer of conventional weapons for undesirable purposes," MFAT says.

Ardern said on Monday that under the existing export regime, "they didn't have grounds to say you can't send the samples, but they did have grounds to say you will not be able to sell on a commercial arrangement to a private company, to the government, or to the military".

"It seems to me to be a pointless exercise for the company to engage with in the first place."

David Smol, the former chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, was appointed in April to review the export control regime for military and dual-use goods and technology. 

"The review will examine whether the export controls regime remains fit for purpose," MFAT said at the time. "It will cover the legislative mandate for the export controls framework, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's implementation of the framework, and all associated policies, roles, delegations and business practice."

On the issue of the Israel-Gaza conflict, MFAT says New Zealand continues to call for "rapid de-escalation and for all sides to adhere to international law and international humanitarian law".

"It is imperative that all sides exercise restraint to prevent further civilian casualties and work towards a ceasefire," it says.

"New Zealand is committed to working with the international community to support efforts to bring about a ceasefire, and calls on the UN Security Council to take action."