Questions and answers: New controls on high-power laser pointers

Laser pointers

  1. What is a laser pointer?
  2. What uses do laser pointers have?
  3. How powerful are laser pointers?
  4. How can I tell if a device is a high-power laser pointer?

Overview of the controls and authorisations

  1. Why were controls on high-power laser pointers introduced?
  2. Which laser pointers are covered by the controls?
  3. What are the controls on high-power laser pointers?
  4. Is there an application fee?
  5. How long will it take for the Director-General of Health to consider my application?
  6. Are there any controls on the possession of high-power laser pointers?
  7. What else do the new regulations do?
  8. Have any offences been created?
  9. Do the new controls essentially ban laser pointers?
  10. Could other types of laser products be inadvertently covered by the new regulations?

Authorisations to import

  1. How can I get consent to import a high-power laser pointer?
  2. What happens if I import a high-power laser pointer without an importation consent?
  3. If I travel overseas can I bring back a high-power laser pointer that I purchased in another country?
  4. If I live outside New Zealand can I bring a high-power laser pointer when I visit New Zealand?

Authorisations to supply or acquire

  1. How do I apply for authorisation to acquire or supply a high-power laser pointer?
  2. Do I need authorisation to sell high-power laser pointers through a website?
  3. Who is responsible for the correct labelling of laser pointers?
  4. If I am a supplier of high-power laser pointers, what should I do to check that a person is entitled to acquire a high-power laser pointer from me?
  5. Can certain classes of persons automatically be authorised to supply or acquire high-power laser pointers?
  6. What classes of persons have been authorised to supply or acquire high power laser pointers?
  7. Who decides if a certain class or classes of persons get such authorisation?
  8. How does someone who belongs to an authorised class of persons demonstrate this?

Miscellaneous

  1. I have an existing laser pointer that is greater than 1 milliwatt – what should I do?
  2. Are schools allowed to use high-power laser pointers?
  3. How do I dispose of a high-power laser pointer?
  4. How do I use a high-power laser pointer safely?
  5. How should I store and safeguard a high-power laser pointer while I am not using it?
  6. What should I do if I see someone misusing a high-power laser pointer (eg, shining it at people’s eyes or at an aircraft or another vehicle)?
  7. What other controls already existed before the new regulations?
  8. Are high-power laser pointers regulated in other countries?
  9. Where can I go for advice or more info?

Laser pointers

1. What is a laser pointer?

As the name suggests, laser pointers are a type of laser. The term laser stands for ‘Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation’.

Laser pointers are small hand-held devices that emit a tightly focused beam of light that can be concentrated onto a very small area even over long distances. Although the total power in the beam may be small (a few milliwatts), concentrating this power onto a tiny spot creates a point of very high intensity.

Lower-power laser pointers have been sold for many years in New Zealand. In recent times however more powerful laser pointers have also become readily available at relatively low cost, often via the internet.

Example image of high powered laser pointers
Fig 1. Photos of high power laser pointers

The regulatory controls define a high-power laser pointer as a device that:

  1. in the Director-General of Health’s opinion, is of the kind commonly known as a laser pointer; and
  2. is battery operated; and
  3. is designed or intended to be operated while held in the hand; and
  4. produces a coherent beam of optical radiation of low divergence*; and
  5. has a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt (mW).

*Note: A coherent beam of optical radiation of low divergence means a beam that does not fan out like a torch beam.


2. What uses do laser pointers have?

Laser pointers are often used as presentation aids by lecturers and teachers. The lower-power laser pointers are sufficient for such purposes. Higher-power pointers can be shone into the night sky and are used by astronomers to point out stars and constellations. Some researchers or scientists may also use them.


3. How powerful are laser pointers?

Laser pointers come in a range of powers. The power output is usually measured in milliwatts. As a guide, the relationship between power and potential harm of the different types of laser pointer is as follows.

Laser pointer output power Health risk posed
Up to and including 1 milliwatt Low-risk
Greater than 1 and up to 5 milliwatts Relatively low-risk, but could still potentially cause some harm to the eye (eg, if shone into eyes from a short distance).
Greater than 5 and up to 500 milliwatts Risk of eye damage
Greater than 500 milliwatts Can burn skin and damage eyes

There are schemes which classify laser pointers according to the risks they pose. The classification may use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4 – with or without a letter after the number) or Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV – with or without a letter after the number). Laser pointers of Class 1, 2, I, or II (with or without a letter after the number) have a power up to and including 1 milliwatt and so are not covered by the Regulations. Laser pointers of Class 3, 4, III or IV (with or without a letter after the number) are considered to be high-power laser pointers and covered by the regulations.

Image showing that the label of the laser pointer includes the power output (under 100mW in this case) and the laser class (IIIb).
Fig 2. Laser pointer label. As the power is greater than 1 mW, and it is in Class IIIb, this is a high-power laser pointer and so subject to the controls on import, supply and acquisition.

Unfortunately, experience in New Zealand and other countries is that the labelling on many pointers, especially the cheaper ones, is wrong. Pointers advertised or labelled as having a power less than 1 mW are frequently found to be much more powerful. People selling such mislabelled pointers may not only risk prosecution under the Ministry of Health regulations, but are also in breach of the Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act.


4. How can I tell if my device is a high-power laser pointer?

The Ministry has developed a flow chart to provide some practical guidance to help people tell whether or not their device is a high-power laser pointer covered by the new controls.

If you are still unsure, you may wish to email the Ministry of Health at laserpointers@moh.govt.nz.

Please provide your contact details and a description of the device (and a photo, if possible). Provide as much information about the device as you can. For example, its output power, a link to the manufacturer’s or supplier’s website, any labelling or documentation provided with the device, a photograph, etc.


Overview of the controls

5. Why were controls on high-power laser pointers introduced?

The controls were introduced to help manage the health and safety risks to the public from the use or misuse of high-power laser pointers.

High-power laser pointers (those with power outputs of greater than 1 milliwatt) can cause harm to people – for example, even momentary exposures can cause eye damage. Some laser pointers can also burn skin.

There are two main risks from high-power laser pointers:

  • Owners and users may not be aware of the potential harm that laser pointers can cause and may inadvertently shine them into their own or other people’s eyes.
  • People could maliciously (or ignorantly) shine them at vehicles such as aircraft and dazzle the pilot (or person controlling the vehicle). Even when shone from several hundred metres away high-power laser pointers can dazzle and cause temporary flash blindness. Distracting or dazzling a pilot, for instance, is a serious aviation safety risk, particularly during critical phases of flight such as take-off and landing. Car drivers and ship crews are also at risk.

The risks associated with the use of lower-power laser pointers, however, are small. The human eye blink and aversion reflexes protect the retina from permanent damage.


6. Which laser pointers are covered by the controls?

The controls do not apply to all laser pointers. They only apply to devices with a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt. Laser pointers with a power output up to and including 1 milliwatt are regarded as low risk and are not covered by the new laws.

The controls define a high-power laser pointer as a device that:

  1. in the Director-General of Health’s opinion, is of the kind commonly known as a laser pointer; and
  2. is battery operated; and
  3. is designed or intended to be operated while held in the hand; and
  4. produces a coherent beam of optical radiation of low divergence*; and
  5. has a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt (mW).

*Note: A coherent beam of optical radiation of low divergence means a beam that does not fan out like a torch beam.

The controls do not apply to all laser pointers. They only apply to devices which have all the characteristics given in a to d above, with a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt. Laser pointers with a power output up to and including 1 milliwatt are regarded as low risk and are not covered by the new laws.

Laser pointers may carry a label indicating the power of the laser, or its classification. The classification may use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4 – with or without a letter after the number) or Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV – with or without a letter after the number).

  • Laser pointers of Class 1, 2, I, or II (with or without a letter after the number) have a power up to and including 1 milliwatt and so are not covered by the controls.
  • Laser pointers of Class 3, 4, III or IV (with or without a letter after the number) are considered to be high-power laser pointers and covered by the controls.

Note that not all battery-operated lasers with a power greater than 1 mW are covered by the controls – this is discussed in more detail in Question 14 below.


7. What are the controls on high-power laser pointers?

The importation, supply and acquisition of high-power laser pointers are subject to the following laws:

  • The Custom Import Prohibition (High-power Laser Pointers) Order 2017 restricts the importation of high-power laser pointers to those people who have received consent from the Director-General of Health to import them. To get consent to import high-power laser pointers you need to apply to the Director-General of Health as explained in Question 15 below.
  • The Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013 restrict the supply of high-power laser pointers to those who are authorised suppliers and also restricts the acquisition of such devices to those who are authorised recipients. To become an authorised supplier (allowing you to sell or give such devices to other people) or an authorised recipient of a high-power laser pointer you need to apply to the Director-General of Health and follow the process explained in Question 19 below.

In brief, these laws state that:

  • you need consent from the Ministry of Health in order to import a high-power laser pointer
  • you need authorisation from the Ministry of Health in order to supply (sell or give away) a high-power laser pointer
  • you need authorisation from the Ministry of Health in order to acquire (buy or receive at no cost) a high-power laser pointer.

8. Is there an application fee?

No. There are no application or processing fees involved when seeking approval to import, supply, or acquire a high-power laser pointer.


9. How long will it take for the Director-General of Health to consider my application?

The Ministry will endeavour to process your application within 25 working days. If there are delays or further information is required, we will contact you.


10. Are there any controls on the possession of high-power laser pointers?

Yes. The Summary Offences Act 1981 has been amended to make it an offence to be in possession of a high-power laser pointer in a public place without a reasonable excuse. (A similar provision has existed for knives for many years.)

What constitutes a ‘reasonable excuse’ to be in possession of a high power laser pointer will depend on the circumstances. For example:

  • if you have received an authorisation to import, supply or acquire such a device from the Ministry of Health and are using it for a legitimate purpose within the scope of the authorisation, this will probably mean you have a reasonable excuse
  • if you are part of a class of authorised users, such as a member of an astronomy society, and are using the device for legitimate purposes, such as pointing out stars, then this will probably mean you have a reasonable excuse.

For more information, the Summary Offences Act 1981 is available on the NZ Legislation wbesite.


11. What else do the new regulations do?

The Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013 also contain provisions:

  • enabling the Director-General of Health to impose conditions on any authorisations he/she grants and to require reasonable information from applicants to inform his/her authorisation decisions
  • empowering the Director-General of Health to declare classes of persons by notice in the Gazette to be authorised suppliers or recipients. (Likely examples of authorised suppliers or recipients include astronomy societies and their members, or people who use high-power laser pointers for scientific, research, or industrial purposes.) Recipients authorised in this way do not need to submit an application to the Ministry of Health
  • requiring suppliers to only supply these devices to people whom they have reasonable grounds to believe are authorised to receive them (either because they are in a class of people declared to be authorised recipients, or have received an authorisation from the Ministry of Health).

12. Have any offences been created?

Yes. The Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013 include offences for:

  • supplying such devices without authorisation to do so (unless an authorised recipient is disposing of a device(s) acquired for personal use) (Regulation 4)
  • supplying such devices to non-authorised suppliers or recipients (regulation 5)
  • acquiring such devices using misleading or deceitful means (regulation 6)
  • authorised suppliers who acquire high-power laser pointers for any purpose other than supply (unless they are also an authorised recipient) (regulation 7).

A person who commits an offence against the regulations is liable upon conviction to a maximum penalty of $500 under section 136 of the Health Act 1956.

Section 209 of the Customs and Excise Act 1996 includes an offence for people who import goods in contravention of a Customs Import Prohibition Order. If convicted an individual is liable to a fine not exceeding $5000. Similarly, a body corporate is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000.

A conviction for being in possession of a high-power laser pointer without having a reasonable excuse, under section 13B of Summary Offences Act 1981, carries a potential penalty up to 3 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $2000.


13. Do the new controls essentially ban laser pointers?

No. The controls do not ban any type of laser pointer outright. They only apply to the import, supply and acquisition, and possession in a public place (without a reasonable excuse) of laser pointers with a power output greater than 1 milliwatt. The controls essentially make high-power laser pointers harder to obtain, as people will need to justify why they need them.

Low-power laser pointers (up to and including 1 milliwatt in power) are not subject to the controls and continue to be readily available without restriction.


14. Could other types of laser products be inadvertently covered by the new regulations?

The controls are not intended to cover all lasers or even all laser pointers – just high-power laser pointers.

The new regulations have defined ‘high-power laser pointers’ in a way that seeks to avoid inadvertently capturing other laser devices. In addition, the Director-General of Health also has the discretion to decide that certain devices are not laser pointers. This provides further assurance that other laser devices are not inadvertently captured by the regulations when there was never any intent to do so.

Devices not considered to be high-power laser pointers

The table below lists laser devices which the Ministry of Health does not consider to be high-power laser pointers for the purposes of:

  • the Customs Import Prohibition (High-power Laser Pointers) Order 2017; and
  • the Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013.

These laws therefore do not cover these types of devices.

Type of device Purposes include Comments
Devices not considered to be high-power laser pointers
Devices incorporating a laser specifically intended for use in surveying, construction and general distance measurement
  • Alignment and setting levels for construction
  • Alignment lasers for laying pipes in trenches
  • Measuring distances and angles
  • Surveying and construction lasers are usually no more than 1 mW.
  • Alignment lasers for pipes are heavy, and not intended to be used while held in the hand.
  • Many lasers used for alignment and setting levels are not conveniently held in the hand but have to be mounted on a tripod.
  • These devices generally cost several hundred dollars.
  • For examples see the EngineerSupply website*.
Devices incorporating a laser which are supplied or sold with fixtures for mounting on a firearm as a sighting aid Assist aiming or sighting in a rifle
  • Such lasers are usually no more than 5 mW.
  • May be more expensive than typical laser pointers.
  • Search Trade Me* for Laser in the ‘Hunting & Shooting’ category.
Laser flares Attract attention from a distance
  • Such lasers are usually no more than 5 mW.
  • They have a divergent beam.
  • May be more expensive than typical laser pointers.
  • Usually waterproof.
  • For examples see the Equipped to Survive and Rescue Flares websites*.
Devices for locating faults on fibre optic cables Locating faults on fibre optic cables
  • They have a divergent beam.
  • They include a connector for fibre optic cables.
  • They are more expensive than simple pointers.
Training pistols that emit a laser beam Firearm training aids
  • Such lasers are usually no more than 5mW.
  • They are more expensive than traditional lasers.
  • They resemble pistols in size and shape.
Laser diodes or components incorporating a laser diode Can be incorporated into a variety of products
  • Laser diodes or components incorporating laser diodes could not be used off the shelf as a pointer.

* Note: References to commercial websites should not be considered as endorsements of these sites or recommendations of the products described there.


Authorisations to import

15. How can I get consent to import a high-power laser pointer?

People wishing to import such devices should apply in writing to the Director-General of Health for consent to import a high-power laser pointer. Use the Application Form (Word, 143 KB) to apply for consent to import a laser pointer.

You need to obtain consent before you import the device. If the device arrives in the country and you do not have a consent, it will be forfeit and may be seized by Customs. You cannot get consent after the device has arrived.

Applicants need to explain their reasons for wanting to import a high-power laser pointer. If you are intending to supply high-power laser pointers to others you will also need to apply for authorisation to supply and show that you understand any obligations you have under the Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013. For example, there are controls on who you are allowed to supply high-power lasers pointers to.

If you intend to use the devices yourself (eg, as astronomy aids) you will also likely need to need to apply for authorisation to acquire the pointer(s), and explain how you will manage potential health and safety risks.

Note, the Armed Forces and Police have been granted specific consent by the Director-General to import such devices in the course of their official duties.


16. What happens if I import a high-power laser pointer without a consent?

The New Zealand Customs Service is responsible for stopping any potential dangers, hazards and threats at the New Zealand border. This includes everything from illegal weapons, objectionable material and drugs, to dangerous persons, hazardous substances and unwanted biological organisms.

Depending on the individual circumstances the device may be:

  • detained at the border for further examination and investigation as to whether or not the importer has the requisite authorisation from the Director-General under the Order to import such devices (in such cases they will advise you in writing)
  • deemed as forfeit, if it has been established that the importer does not have authorisation under the Order to import such devices (in which the laser pointers will be forfeited to the Crown), or
  • seized (in which the Crown takes possession of them).

The New Zealand Customs Service website has more information on detained, forfeited and seized goods.


17. If I travel overseas can I bring back a high-power laser pointer that I purchased in another country?

If you intend to purchase a high-power laser pointer while overseas and bring it back with you, you must apply for and be granted a consent to import before you leave New Zealand. Depending on what you intend to do with the pointer once you have it in New Zealand, you must also have an authorisation to supply and/or acquire a pointer.

When you pass through Customs, the high-power laser pointer must be declared and you must show your consent from the Ministry of Health.

If you do not have consent to import, the pointer will be seized by Customs (see Question 16).


18. If I live outside New Zealand can I bring a high-power laser pointer when I visit New Zealand?

Anyone bringing a high-power laser pointer into New Zealand must obtain a consent to import before arriving in the country. Depending on what you intend to do with the pointer once you have it in New Zealand, you must also have an authorisation to supply and/or acquire a pointer.

If you live outside New Zealand but wish to visit and bring a high-power laser pointer with you, note that all applications must include a Statutory Declaration. The requirements for Declarations made outside New Zealand are given in section 11 of the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957.


Authorisations to supply or acquire

19. How do I apply for permission to acquire or supply a high-power laser pointer?

As for imports, you need to apply to the Director-General of Health for authorisation to acquire or supply a high-power laser pointer. Use the Application Form (Word, 143 KB) to apply for an authorisation to acquire or supply. Note that ‘supply’ covers both selling and giving high-power laser pointers to others, and ‘acquire’ covers both buying and receiving at no cost.

An application for authorisation to supply high-power laser pointers will need to show that the applicant is of good character and is aware of their obligations around not supplying the devices to people who are not authorised to acquire them.

An application for authorisation to acquire a high-power laser pointer will need to demonstrate that the applicant has a legitimate purpose for acquiring such a device, and will ensure that the device is stored securely and not misused. An authorisation is needed however the pointer is acquired (eg, buying in a shop or through a website).

The Director-General can grant authorisations subject to any conditions he/she considers appropriate (eg, ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place and procuring the necessary undertaking from authorised users not to use, or permit the use of, the device in a way that may endanger others).


20. Do I need authorisation to sell high-power laser pointers through a website?

Yes. Anyone who supplies high-power laser pointers (where supply includes both selling and giving) needs an authorisation, however or wherever the sale or supply is done. New Zealand auction websites generally do not allow sales of high-power laser pointers.


21. Who is responsible for the correct labelling of laser pointers?

Tests conducted by the Ministry of Health have found that that the labelling on many pointers, especially the cheaper ones, is wrong. Pointers advertised or labelled as having a power less than 1 mW are frequently found to be much more powerful. There have been similar findings in other countries.

People planning to import laser pointers should take care to ensure that the devices they import match their description. If a device is labelled or described as less than 1 mW but actually has a higher power, it may be seized by Customs. Similarly, if consent has been granted to import a high-power laser pointer of a certain power but the power of the device which arrives is higher than that, the device may also be seized.

In New Zealand, the supplier is responsible for ensuring that the pointers they sell are labelled and advertised correctly. The fact that labelling or descriptions provided by the manufacturer or an overseas supplier of laser pointers may be wrong des not exempt a New Zealand supplier from their responsibility to comply with the Ministry of Health Regulations, the Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Guarantees Act.


22. If I am a supplier of high-power laser pointers, what should I do to check that a person is entitled to acquire a high-power laser pointer from me?

You can only supply such devices to authorised recipients or another authorised supplier who is acquiring the device(s) for the purpose of supply. You need to take reasonable steps to ensure that people you supply laser pointers to are actually authorised to acquire them. One way is to ask to see their letter of authorisation from the Director-General of Health and some accompanying ID (such as a drivers licence).

Some classes of people have been granted automatic authorisation to supply or acquire high-power laser pointers and so will not have a specific letter of authorisation from the Director-General of Health (or delegate). These classes of people include:

  • astronomy societies
  • members of astronomy societies
  • the Police and all Police employees (as defined in the Policing Act 2008) acting in the course of their official duties
  • people who use high-power laser pointers for scientific, research, or industrial purposes.

If a person claims to fit one of these categories, you should ask for some evidence of this (and their identification). For example, in the case of amateur astronomers this could be their membership card or a letter from their astronomical society. If someone wishes to acquire a high-power laser pointer for scientific or industrial purposes they should supply a letter from their employer explaining why they meet one of the classes of authorised people and what the devices are to be used for.

If you are still unsure, you may wish to email the Ministry of Health at laserpointers@moh.govt.nz.


23. Can certain classes of persons automatically be authorised to supply or acquire high-power laser pointers?

Yes. Under the Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013 there are two ways people can be authorised to supply or acquire high-power laser pointers:

  • they can apply to the Director-General of Health for authorisation (using the Application Form [Word, 143 KB]); or
  • they belong to a class of persons that the Director-General has declared by notice in the Gazette to be authorised to supply or acquire high-power laser pointers (as described in regulation 11).

The Regulations are available on the NZ Legislation website.


24. What classes of persons have been authorised to supply or acquire high-power laser pointers?

The following classes of persons have been declared to be authorised suppliers or authorised recipients for the purposes of the Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013:

  • astronomy societies
  • members of astronomy societies
  • people who use high-power laser pointers for scientific, research, or industrial purposes
  • the Police in the course of their official duties.

The Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc) have been excluded from the scope of these Regulations and so do not need to obtain such authorisation. However, this exclusion only applies to devices supplied or acquired in the course of official duties. If a member of the Armed Forces wants to supply or acquire a high-power laser pointer in their personal capacity, then they will need to apply for authorisation just like any other member of the public.

People who fall within these authorised classes are still required to abide by the requirements of the Regulations. For example, it is an offence to supply (ie, sell or give) a high-power laser pointer to someone who is not an authorised supplier or recipient. They are responsible for the safe use and storage of the high-power laser pointer.

Note: the Director-General cannot approve classes of people to import high-power laser pointers. Those wishing to import high-power laser pointers need to apply to the Ministry for consent to import them. Use the Application Form (Word, 143 KB) to apply.


25. Who decides if a certain class or classes of persons get such authorisation?

Under regulation 11(1) of the Regulations the Director-General of Health can, at his/her discretion, declare by notice in the Gazette (the official Government newspaper and authoritative journal of constitutional record) classes of persons to be authorised suppliers or recipients of high-power laser pointers. The final decision rests with the Director-General of Health. Once gazetted, the classes of authorised suppliers or recipients will be published on the laser pointers page of the Ministry’s website.

If you think a further class of person could be authorised, please email the Ministry of Health with your suggestion and the reasons why you think such a class of person should be authorised to supply or acquire the devices. Please email laserpointers@moh.govt.nz.


26. How does someone who belongs to an authorised class of persons demonstrate this?

If you belong to an authorised class of persons you will need to provide evidence to the supplier to acquire a high power laser pointer. Examples include:

  • a member of an astronomy society could provide a letter on the society’s letterhead attesting to their membership
  • a university researcher could provide a letter from the Department Head attesting to their need for the device for research purposes.

Miscellaneous

27. I have an existing laser pointer that is greater than 1 milliwatt – what should I do?

A 2014 amendment to the Summary Offences Act 1981 makes it an offence to be in possession of a high-power laser pointer in a public place without a reasonable excuse.

If you own a high-power laser pointer then you need to ensure that you have a reasonable excuse if you take it into a public place (eg, off your property).

Depending on the circumstances examples of having a reasonable excuse could include:

  • you have authorisation from the Ministry of Health to acquire or supply the device and are using it for a legitimate purpose within the condition of your approval.
  • you are a member of a class of person who are authorised to acquire high-power laser pointers and you are using the device for a legitimate purpose – for example, you are a member of an astronomical society and you are using the device on an astronomy tour.

If you don’t need the device you should consider disposing of it (see Question 29 below), or remove the battery and keep the device in a secure place out of the reach of children.


28. Are schools allowed to use high-power laser pointers?

High power laser-pointers may be very useful for demonstrating scientific principles or in science experiments. Schools have the same entitlement to apply for authorisation to import or acquire high-power laser pointers as anyone else. However, it is the school’s responsibility to ensure that the pointer is used safely, and in accordance with any health and safety policies set by the school or the Ministry of Education. 

Schools should also be aware that the labelling on many laser pointers sold in New Zealand and overseas is frequently wrong, especially on cheap pointers, and that the actual output power may be far higher than stated on a label or advertisement. 


29. How do I dispose of a high-power laser pointer?

You can dispose of the device (battery included) in your domestic kerbside collection.


30. How do I use a high-power laser pointer safely?

A detailed overview of safety with lasers is available in AS/NZS IEC 60825.14:2011 Safety of laser products – Part 14: A user’s guide.

The key principles for minimising risks of harm when using a high-power laser pointer are:

  • use a device which has just enough power for the purpose and no more (eg, for astronomers – a 50 mW pointer should be quite sufficient)
  • minimise or eliminate any chances of inadvertently shining the beam in your own or other people's eyes
  • do not point the laser at a reflective surface
  • wear appropriate safety goggles if necessary
  • designate someone to be responsible for the safe use of the laser
  • only power up the laser when it is needed, and ensure that it cannot be powered up at other times.

31. How should I store and safeguard a high-power laser pointer while I am not using it?

When you are not using high-power laser pointer you should remove the battery and store it separately, and keep the device in a secure place out of the reach of children. If the laser pointer has a security key, this also should be removed and stored separately.


32. What should I do if I see someone misusing a high-power laser pointer (eg, shining it at people’s eyes or at an aircraft or another vehicle)?

Call the Police and make detailed notes of what is happening including the location, time and a description of the event. Collect any identification details (eg, vehicle registration numbers) and take photos (or video) if you can safely.


33. What other controls exist for high-power laser pointers?

There are very few other controls.

There is a joint Australia/New Zealand Standard for lasers that provides recommendations for the safe use of lasers, including manufacturing and labelling requirements for each class of laser. However, compliance is voluntary.

The Police have been able to use existing laws to prosecute the malicious use of these devices, but this is generally after the fact and it can be hard to identify the offender (the observation, apprehension and conviction of perpetrators have in the past been very difficult).


34. Are high-power laser pointers regulated in other countries?

Yes. A number of countries have introduced controls on the import, sale and supply of these devices due to the increasing numbers of incidents involving aircraft.

Australia, for instance, has introduced regulations that make it a requirement that any person seeking to import a hand held laser must have written permission from the Minister of Home Affairs or an authorised person prior to the arrival of goods in Australia. Each state and territory then sets its own requirements that are administered through the Police.


35. Where can I go for advice or more info?

Further information about controls on high power laser pointers is available on the Ministry of Health’s website.

The New Zealand Customs Service’s website has further information about importing goods and prohibited and restricted imports.

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