Is New Zealand a safe place to live in? Well, if you are looking for somewhere safe and stable, New Zealand might be your best choice. New Zealand has been consistently rated as one of the most secure and safe countries in the world. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its own challenges with terror threats, too. This article will explore terrorism in New Zealand and how it has been managed by the authorities.
How safe is New Zealand?
By global standards related to crime and violence, New Zealand is deemed safe and peaceful. According to Global Peace Index, New Zealand is the second safest country in the world. Lately, new limits have been imposed on gun ownership, contributing to an even decreased crime rate in 2021. Because of the record of low crime rate that New Zealand has managed to sustain, no country is truly safe from terror threats.
The current terrorism threat in New Zealand is medium, according to the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS). This means a terrorist attack is feasible and can occur. The terror levels identified are as follows:
- Extreme: Terror attack expected
- High: Terror attacked highly likely
- Medium: Terror attack is assessed as feasible and could well occur
- Low: Terror attack is assessed as a realistic possibility
- Very low: Terrorist attack is assessed as unlikely
New Zealand is not exempt from terror crimes, though the incidence does prove to be rare. Just in 2019, mass shootings occurred in Christchurch – becoming one of the most prominent terror attacks ever faced by New Zealand in the 21st century.
2019 Christchurch Attacks
In March of 2019, the world grieved the loss of 51 Muslim believers who were killed at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. 40 others were injured in the process. The shooting occurred during the Friday prayers, starting at Al Noor Mosque and then progressing to the Linwood Islamic Centre. A 28-year-old male white supremacist was guilty of carrying out the attacks. He even livestreamed the shootings online on Facebook.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the tragedy as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” and went on to condemn any form of racist and/or extremist sentiment and behaviour.
Following an 800-page report on the Christchurch Attacks released by New Zealand government, Jacinda Ardern reinforced, “Muslim New Zealanders should be safe. Anyone who calls New Zealand home, regardless of race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, should be safe,”.
2021 Auckland Supermarket Knife Attack
On the 3 September 2021, BBC reported another terror attack involving a Sri Lankan national who stabbed seven people in an Auckland supermarket. Five others were wounded and two were injured. He was identified to be a supporter of the Islamic State, an extremist terrorist group. He was shot and killed by the police. Following this incident, Ardern has vowed to toughen anti-terror laws in a bid to ensure safety for all New Zealand residents
What the government is doing to counter terrorism
Parliament passes a new counter-terrorism law
In late September 2021, the New Zealand government passed a new counter-terrorism legislation. This new law will grant security agencies and authorities more power to fight terrorism, as noted by New Zealand’s immigration minister, Kris Faafoi. Security agencies will also be granted the power to enter, search and monitor places without a warrant, as reported in an article by the Anadolu Agency.
Faafoi added that the new law would include the planning or preparation of a terrorist act as a criminal offence. The law criminalizes plotting a terrorist attack, tightening a legal loophole that was exposed by the violent knife attack.
In addition, the use of weapons in combat training for terrorist purposes are now considered criminal offences, too.
Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG)
The Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) is a sub-department of the NZSIS. It is responsible for assessing terror threats. This group is comprised of a number of government agencies including New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Government Communications Security Bureau, New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Police, Civil Aviation Authority/Aviation Security Service, Department of Corrections and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
According to its website, the CTAG “uses classified and open-source information from domestic and international sources to produce assessments about the threat of terrorism.” This involves looking into a suspicious individual’s intent to conduct an attack and capability (knowledge and resources) to engage in them. Another primary responsibility of the CTAG is to set and continually review New Zealand’s national terrorism threat level.
How to stay safe in New Zealand
The national emergency number is 111. You may also text your location to 7233 (SAFE). Your details will be stored at a central database that the police can access should you find yourself in an emergency.
Always be vigilant in crowded, public spaces. Should you notice any suspicious-looking parcels or people, do not hesitate to contact 0800 747 224 to report. However, if you possess of any information that involves the immediate threat to the safety of any individual, please call 111 immediately. New Zealand is constantly working hard to keep terror threats at bay to ensure the safety of its citizens and all who live and visit the country. Despite its recent terror attacks, the country has managed remain one of the most secure countries in the world.