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New Zealand: UPDATED - Gov't to restrict handheld laser pointers

The government of New Zealand will introduce new legislation to restrict higher-power handheld lasers. The law is being drafted as of May 2013 and should take effect by the end of 2013. It will be undertaken under the authority of the Customs and Excise Act of 1996 and the Health Act of 1956.

The new law will not cover low-power lasers below 1 milliwatt which are used for presentations, surveying or gun sights. It will control importation, and will restrict use of higher-power handhelds to “authorized users who have a legitimate purpose such as astronomers, researchers and the NZ Defence Force”, according to an Associate Health Minister.
This action is being taken due to laser interference with aircraft -- about 100 laser strikes per year according to the Civil Aviation Authority -- and due to the potential for eye injuries and skin burns. The government-run Accident Compensation Corporation accepts about 10 claims per year for laser-caused injuries, according to the Minister. Lasers currently are inexpensive and easy to obtain. They can be sold with little information about safely using them.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association said interference with aircraft has been a major concern, and that the regulations should be introduced “in the most prompt and robust manner.” In addition, NZALPA called for a separate bill, already introduced that would ban laser pointers, to be passed.

An electronics importer quoted by Radio New Zealand said the proposed restrictions would be difficult to enforce.

From the New Zealand Herald, Radio New Zealand, and Air Traffic Management

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: New Zealand’s laser injury rate (10 per year) works out to 1 claimed injury per 446,735 persons. If the U.S. had a similar rate, there would be 707 laser injury claims per year. As discussed on this page, based on emergency room reports and other sources we believe the U.S. rate is much lower -- in the low double digits. The reason for this disparity is not known. It may be that N.Z. claims of laser injury are better tracked than in the U.S., where private physicians and insurance companies are not required to report all laser injury claims. Also, there is a difference between claimed injuries and actual or strongly suspected injuries.

UPDATE, June 26 2013: The ACC has provided additional statistics about their reported laser eye and skin injury insurance claims, including a breakdown by year, by diagnosis, by age and gender, and by location where the injury occurred.