Terror in Chch

PM confirms Chch Royal Commission

A Royal Commission of Inquiry will look into the causes of the Christchurch terror attack and whether it could have been prevented, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.

The availability of semi-automatic weapons, the role of social media, and the focus of our intelligence services will be among the areas covered in the inquiry.

Speaking to media on Monday afternoon, Ardern said Cabinet had agreed that a Royal Commission was the most appropriate way to look into the attack and whether it could have been prevented.

“While New Zealanders and Muslim communities around the world are both grieving and showing compassion for one another, they are also quite rightly asking questions on how this terror attack was able to happen here.”

The inquiry will look into the accused gunman and his activities before the attack, and how Government agencies - such as the SIS, GCSB, Customs, Immigration NZ and NZ Police - carried out their roles in the lead up to the mass murder.

Ardern said the terms of reference would be finalised in the next two weeks, as well as who would lead the inquiry.

However, she confirmed that the inquiry would cover whether New Zealand’s intelligence community was “concentrating its resources appropriately”, following claims from critics that it had focused on Muslim extremists while failing to acknowledge the threat of white supremacists.

“It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to the bottom of how this act of terrorism occurred, and what if any opportunities we had to stop it.”

Asked whether she would consider approving mass surveillance programmes to prevent a similar attack in future, Ardern said: “New Zealand is not a surveillance state, and that’s been a very clear directive I think from members of the public, but questions of course need to be answered around whether or not this was the activities of an individual we could or should have known about.”

She acknowledged Royal Commissions had historically taken a long time to conclude their work, but said the seriousness of the attack and the need for public confidence had to be weighed up with the desire for swift answers.

“We want it to be independent, we want it to be at the highest level, but we do also want it to be timely.”

The composition of the Royal Commission, and how the terms of reference were drafted, could help to cut down the duration of the inquiry, although Ardern would not provide an indicative timeline until the work was done.

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