Police Commissioner Peter Doone says a law change allowing authorised foreign personal protection officers to carry weapons in New Zealand during APEC will only apply in exceptional circumstances.
Mr Doone said seeking the change has been a police initiative to both clarify the existing law, and to provide additional flexibility and control in security matters where this might be needed.
The Commissioner stressed that the authority to carry weapons will not be an automatic right for delegations, and that he will make the decision based on several security factors, including a risk assessment.
"This authority will be very much the exception and rarely applied.
"The New Zealand Police has the primary responsibility for protecting the lives of New Zealanders and visitors to this country," he said. "We have an excellent record in dealing with major security events and the law change will supplement security where necessary. I have every confidence in the capability of my staff to continue their role during APEC.
"The 1995 CHOGM Conference in Auckland is a good example of the capability of the New Zealand Police," Mr Doone said. ``Security was tight and appropriate to the need.
"However, we are living in a changing international environment and there could be times when it will be beneficial for selected foreign officers working with their own international leaders to carry firearms."
"The changing face of international terrorism means that we may need, and I stress may need, some additional capability to meet specific threats."
The Commissioner said the proposed change to the Arms Act will bring New Zealand in line with other countries. "With some of the worldâ€™s major leaders expected for APEC, including the presidents of the United States, Russia and China, it would be remiss of us as responsible hosts not to look at all security issues and take appropriate precautions."
Mr Doone said the New Zealand Police will still control security operations for APEC, and will provide personal protection officers, as well as other police and associated security measures.
"The proposed change to the Arms Act will give me additional flexibility in deciding what is best in terms of security needs for New Zealand and its citizens and for visiting dignitaries," Mr Doone said.
"It does not mean throwing open the borders and letting every foreign personal protection officer in with a handgun. Far from it. It means that both New Zealanders and visiting APEC delegations can be confident that all their security needs can be met.
"Under the proposed law, decisions on whether firearms can be carried by accredited foreign delegations, and the type of firearms carried, will be mine," Mr Doone said. "This operational policing decision will be made after several factors, including a risk assessment on the delegation, and the best means of protecting the delegation, are carefully looked at."
The Commissioner said he would not speculate on what APEC delegations might be authorised to carry weapons or in what numbers, but he expected it to be only a few. These issues will be worked through individually with delegations and final decisions will not be made until well into next year.
"These are issues that will be determined as part of our overall assessment of security risks for each delegation," he said. "There are some details that must remain confidential, because to do otherwise would compromise security arrangements.
"I would like to reassure the public, however, that any decision allowing a foreign personal protection officer to carry a weapon will be made with the same careful consideration given to arming a New Zealand police officer.
"No-one is above the law, including foreign protection officers, and visiting delegations will be made well aware of this."
Media Relations Manager
Office of the Commissioner