A covert operation by an undercover journalist has unearthed shocking information about one of New Zealand's largest white supremacist groups, Action Zealandia - an organisation comprising primarily young, white men, a significant portion of whom are completing their education at university.
Elliot Weir, the features editor for Critic Te Arohi, the student magazine of the Otago University Student Association, spent six months undercover in Action Zealandia, a neo-Nazi organisation with nationwide membership that desires to create a "pure" white ethnostate in New Zealand.
In a three-piece series for Critic, Weir revealed insider information obtained from within its ranks - including the group's steadfast support for the gunman who killed 51 people in the Christchurch mosque shootings of March 15, 2019, now referred to as New Zealand's darkest day.
During their time as a member of Action Zealandia, Weir found the covert organisation consists of 30 active members, with an estimated eight "supporters" on the fringes of the group - at least three of whom are women. The organisation restricts its membership to "physically fit, tidy European male[s] of sound mind and good character", with the average age being roughly 25, according to group leaders, whom Weir spoke to over the phone. Although the majority are aged between 18-35, people as young as 13 have attempted to join.
One of the two leaders they spoke to claimed there are a significant number of university students among its ranks. They also met with six different members and participated in the group's online chats for most of this year, all while maintaining a secret identity.
During their time within their ranks, Weir found Action Zealandia supports the Christchurch mosque shooter, the man who became the first person in New Zealand's history to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"No wonder someone finally snapped after all that they [Muslims] have done to us!" one member said in an encrypted message, Weir revealed, with others agreeing.
"After decades of Muslim atrocities in our homelands I don't feel bad about what happened," one said. "I'm not a violent person, but when it comes to it, f*** them," said another, as well as: "The only problem was that [the shooter] didn't go after those causing the real problems. Was dumb attacking innocent muslims where there are soooo many guilty ones [sic]".
Weir also found the group has established links to many other violent white supremacist groups around the world, including a podcast interview with the Scandinavian Nordic Resistance Movement, an organisation responsible for multiple targeted bombings against left-wing and refugee spaces in Sweden, and at least three murders - a group cited as a key influence by some of Action Zealandia's founding members.
Other extremist groups and individuals interviewed on the group's podcast include the New British Union, a British Fascist political movement; Blair Cottrell, a prominent Australian neo-Nazi convicted of numerous charges, including inciting hatred against communities; and Rob Rundo, the founder of a violent Californian 'alt-right fight club' known as the Rise Above Movement.
The group's leader, James Fairburn, has been arrested multiple times on various charges. One member of Action Zealandia had made plans to start a terror cell in Aotearoa, Weir found, while another was arrested for threatening New Zealand's national security - and was the first New Zealander charged for espionage, ever.
Other revelations from within Action Zealandia's ranks include the group's hard anti-vaccination stance, with its leaders instructing members to refuse immunisation against COVID-19, even if it meant falsifying documents. The group has actively spread misinformation to fuel fear around vaccination, with one member claiming the vaccine had been developed by Jewish people to sterilise and depopulate the world.
Actions undertaken by the group including making submissions against the proposed hate speech legislation, proposing the creation of a front organisation to make more submissions, outlining plans to infiltrate political parties, and attempting to plaster 'White Lives Matter' posters across Dunedin this year.
"Members attended a public Social Credit Party meeting in Ashburton in May this year," Weir wrote. "Several members also debated infiltrating and 'reinventing' the National Party to spread white supremacist ideas to a greater portion of the population."
Weir also found that within their private chats, the group would praise notorious fascists such as Adolf Hitler, and would perpetuate conspiracies regarding Holocaust denial. Members would also frequently denigrate black people, Māori, queer people, leftists, overweight people and drug users. Members celebrated violence against many of these groups, and referred to George Floyd - a Black man who was murdered by a white police officer last year - as a person who "deserve[d] a bullet in the back of the head".
Action Zealandia has previously appeared in the news for vandalising the Auckland office of two National MPs, as well as the individual actions of some of its members. Sam Brittenden, a former member and University of Otago student, was arrested last year after refusing to hand over his phone under a police search warrant. He was convicted the year prior for disorderly conduct after shouting "f*** the Muslims" on Castle St the day after the attacks.