Christchurch mosque attacks: St John not prepared for terrorist attacks - top expert

A leading global counter-terrorism expert says New Zealand wasn’t ready to deal with the March 15 mosque attacks, despite a marked global increase in terrorism. 

He said other countries had trained for such a scenario, but first responders here were unprepared. 

Since 9/11 changed the shape of the world, there have been hundreds of terrorist attacks and mass shootings across the world.

Countries have got themselves up to speed with what was required, but UK counter-terrorism expert Scott Wilson said New Zealand hasn't.

"Was there even a plan? We in the UK have Operation Plato which is the multi-agency response to a marauding terrorist attack," Wilson said.

The former Scotland Yard head of counter-terrorism said St John wasn’t prepared for it.  

"I'm being critical of your processes and systems. There should have been better processes and systems at a higher level to have something and know what the threat level was in many countries at that time to be able to deal with a marauding terrorist attack," Wilson said.

St John's policies and training were part of the reason neither mosque had ambulances arrive until more than half an hour after the shootings. 

"You just weren't set up to deal with something like this, I don't know if you are now, but you just didn’t have the setup, you didn't have the officers with the training, the ballistic gear, they hadn't exercised, tested it," Wilson said. 

On March 15, there were just two paramedics rostered on that were trained to enter high-risk situations. 

"Two is just far too little, as I said Manchester tonight there'd be 42 trained officers to go into that horror zone," Wilson said.

The UK saw and planned for such attacks. 

"We knew we were most likely going to get these types of attacks. We've seen them in France, we've seen them in Belgium, we've seen them in the States and we set a plan in place," Wilson said.

Both global experts say the coordination between police and ambulance should also be better. 

"Since the attacks in Mumbai in 2008 we realised that fire and ambulance personnel may have to go into these danger zones and we started the program as way back as 2009," Wilson said.

In 2023, the Coroner is now examining ours.