Ardern apologises after royal commission mosque findings

Nadia Isa

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has apologised for failings in the lead-up to the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attacks, after the findings of a royal commission into the attacks were released. In March 2019, Australian gunman Brenton Tarrant opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 people and injuring another 40.

The commission found there were significant failings prior to the terrorist attack, but also found no failures within any government agencies which would have allowed the terrorist’s planning and preparation to be detected. The report also found there was no plausible way the Australian could have been detected ahead of the attacks “except by chance”.

However, the two key failings identified in the report were the granting of a gun licence to a man who’d only just arrived in New Zealand and whose main referee was someone he primarily interacted with in gaming forums. This was a man who had donated money to white supremacist organisations, had posted on far-right online forums and never apparently come to the attention of intelligence agencies.

The report noted the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) informed the inquiry the individual had not been identified by ASIO, nor was he the subject of an ASIO investigation prior to March 15, 2019. In regard to how the individual obtained a firearms licence, the report found “New Zealand Police failed to meet required standards in the administration of the firearms licensing system”.

It stated the NZ Arms Manual, Master Vetting Guide and Firearms Licence Vetting Guide did not provide “coherent and complete guidance” for processing applications where the applicant could not provide a “near relative” as a referee, and that police did not adequately address the issue of the referee. Furthermore, the commissioners said NZ Police did not have adequate and systematic training in place.

Chairman of New Zealand’s Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO), Michael Dowling, said the report showed no justification for firearms legislation changes. “This revelation shows that changes to firearm laws immediately following the shooting were unjustified and further changes are unnecessary,” Mr Dowling said. “The shooting did not arise out of a problem with the New Zealand public but with Tarrant himself and the government agencies that enabled him to carry out this atrocity. It is not New Zealanders that need to be fixed but our institutions.”

Mr Dowling said the royal commission of inquiry report shows police failed to uphold the law when erroneously providing Tarrant with a firearms licence. The full report can be found here: https://christchurchattack.royalcommission.nz/the-report/

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