Some Kiwis might end up missing out on this year's duck hunting season, with police struggling to process a backlog of firearms licences.
The New Zealand Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO) said it had been contacted by a number of licence holders who are concerned they won't have their licences processed in time for the season, even though they applied before Christmas.
"Duck hunters don't know whether to plan ahead in the hope they will receive their licence before the season starts or to give the season away," said COLFO chairman Michael Dowling.
The game bird hunting season begins on May 1, though hunters can set up their maimai and stands from March 28.
Game bird hunting licences going on sale on March 11, but with confusion over whether people will have their firearms licences renewed by the start of the season, Dowling said many are holding off buying season licences for the whole family to go hunting - choosing instead to buy just one licence to secure their hunting spots.
He said the backlog created a further barrier for Kiwis to take part and would have negative flow-on effects for hunting-related businesses already hurting due to COVID-19.
"This backlog was entirely foreseeable following the Government's changes to how police conduct their vetting. The firearms confiscation and compensation schemes, along with the effects of COVID-19 have strained police resources. Law-abiding firearms owners are not receiving the level of service they deserve."
A police spokesperson acknowledged the backlog and told Newshub reminders had been issued for people to apply for their licence well ahead of time, given the situation around COVID-19 and new licensing forms and processing procedures.
"Those seeking a new licence (commonly known as a renewal if they are an existing licence holder) should apply a minimum of four months before the expiry of their current licence," the spokesperson said.
"We did bring on board more staff to help alleviate the backlog, and we have been prioritising applications based on people who need their licence for work, and renewals, first."
Police were working hard to clear as many renewals before duck hunting season started in May, the spokesperson said.
"We regret that some people may be in a position of not having a current licence when the season starts but they will still be able to take part in duck shooting if accompanied by and under the immediate supervision of a current licence holder."