Jacinda Ardern apologises for failings identified by landmark report into Christchurch mosque atrocities

The massive 792-page report was made public on Tuesday after 18 months of work. It details numerous failings by New Zealand police, security agencies and the broader public service.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has apologised for government failings identified in the report.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has apologised for government failings identified in the report. Source: AP

New Zealand intelligence services failed to appropriately investigate the threat of right-wing extremism prior to the Christchurch terror attack, the final report from the royal commission into the deadly shooting has revealed. 

Instead, the report criticised security agencies for placing disproportionate scrutiny on Islamic terror threats.  

It also found issues with the police's administration of gun licensing but said there was no way authorities could have known of the imminent attack. 

On March 15, 2019, an Australian terrorist opened fire on two Christchurch mosques killing 51 worshippers.
Source: AAP

The 792-page report, which was released by the New Zealand government on Tuesday, is the result of an 18-month long inquiry into the actions of government agencies in the lead up to the 15 March attack in 2019. 

Fifty-one Muslim worshippers were killed and dozens more injured when a lone gunman opened fire on the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in inner-city Christchurch.

Australian man Brenton Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the shootings in August.

Jacinda Ardern apologises as Christchurch royal commission ends

The report made 44 recommendations, including the need for reforms to hate speech laws, changes to firearms licensing, and the creation of a new national security and intelligence agency.

It also recommended the appointment of a new counter-terrorism minister and additional funding for research into extremism in New Zealand. 

Christchurch Islamic community leaders on Tuesday described the revelations in the report as "alarming" and accepted all of the recommendations, which they hoped would help rebuild trust within the Muslim community. 

“We’ve known for a long time that the Muslim community has been targeted with hate speech and hate crimes – this report shows that we are right,” said Abdigani Ali, spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Canterbury.

“It’s time for change and the time is ripe to make those changes. We have one of the most diverse parliaments in the world and all sorts of groups are waking up to outdated ideology that has disadvantaged different parts of New Zealand’s community for a very long time."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed on Tuesday that the government would implement all recommendations by March and issued an apology for the disproportionate scrutiny placed on the Muslim community prior to the attack.

"For many years the Muslim community has raised concerns about the disproportionate scrutiny. The report confirms that there was inappropriate concentration of resources," she said.

"The commission made no findings that these issues would have stopped the attack. But these were failings nonetheless, and for that, on behalf of the government, I apologise.

"An apology would be hollow without action, so, in order to ensure New Zealanders are safe, the government has agreed in principle with all 44 recommendations contained in the report."

New Zealand's Minister of Security Intelligence Services, Andrew Little, will be appointed to oversee the implementation of the recommendations, Ms Ardern said. 

In response to findings that the shooter was inspired by extremist content posted to video-sharing site YouTube, Ms Ardern said she would contact the company's leaders directly. 

"Ultimately, this roughly 800-page report can be distilled into one simple premise - Muslim New Zealanders should be safe," she told reporters. She also said she would discuss the report with Prime Minister Scott Morrison

New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster also issued an "unreserved" apology to survivors, witnesses and the family of victims for the force's failure to adequately follow up on the gunman's referees to obtain the firearms he used in the shootings.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission welcomed the government's apology for the failures leading up to the attack and supported the need for change.

Christchuch victims react to royal commission findings

“Given the report’s detailed account of major institutional failings over successive years and the inappropriate focus on Islamist terrorism, we applaud the Government’s apology to Aotearoa New Zealand’s Muslim communities,” Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said. 

"More than 18 months after this sickening event the pain is felt every day by those who have lost loved ones and by those coping with ongoing physical and emotional trauma."

The final report was presented to Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy late last month, with community leaders and the families of victims granted early access to the findings.

More than 400 interviews were conducted and 73,500 pages of evidence and submissions analysed as part of the inquiry.

“We sincerely thank all those who have made valuable contributions to the inquiry through submissions, formal interviews, hui, written evidence or expertise,” Commissioner William Young said on 26 November.

"Having completed 18 months of intense inquiry, engagement and analysis, we urge the Government to consider the findings and act on the recommendations."

Masjid Al-Noor mosque Imam Gamal Fouda thanked the commission on Tuesday for the sensitivity shown to participants in the inquiry and for producing a thorough and robust report.

"We need to take some time to talk to communities across New Zealand to gather their thoughts on the recommendations to ensure that their implementation will rebuild trust and make a real difference,” he said. 

With AAP

For people in Australia, mental health support is available at Beyond Blue.org.au. Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Published 8 December 2020 at 12:26pm, updated 8 December 2020 at 1:13pm
By Maani Truu