Dunedin Muslim's 'astounding message' to Jacinda Ardern about New Zealand after Christchurch attack

A Muslim woman in Dunedin told Jacinda Ardern she only feels at home in New Zealand since the Christchurch terror attack. 

The Prime Minister visited Dunedin's Al Huda Mosque on Wednesday, which the alleged 28-year-old gunman reportedly said in his manifesto was the original target of the March 15 shooting. 

The Prime Minister said she felt it was appropriate to visit the Dunedin mosque to reiterate her message of safety and inclusion for the Muslim community in the wake of the attack that left 50 dead and dozens injured.

Ardern said there was one woman in the mosque who told her she had lived in New Zealand for more than a decade but had "never felt more at home than she had in the last 10 days". 

"I found that such an astounding message in the wake of what the community has experienced," the Prime Minister said, adding that she discussed safety with the community, particularly with Muslim women who "wear their faith". 

Ardern has received global praise for her inclusive approach to the Muslim community since the attack, with an image of her wearing a hijab projected onto the world's tallest building in Dubai over the weekend in a show of thanks. 

Speaking to media in Dunedin, she said: "I wanted to come, to visit with them, to hear and talk about their concerns and just have a chance for listening, really."

Al Huda Mosque.
Al Huda Mosque. Photo credit: Google Maps

"This was the city where the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Christchurch was living at the time and the message I've received from our local MPs is that the Muslim community here were acutely aware of that."

Asked if there needs to be more awareness about Islam in New Zealand, Ardern said she will be looking at what kind of work has been done in the aftermath of other terrorist attacks to make sure it never happens again. 

"That does mean looking at examples of those who have experienced this kind of attack in a way that New Zealand hasn't before."

Norway, a country with a similar population to New Zealand, experienced a similar tragedy in 2011 when a bomb went off in Oslo killing eight, with a further 69 killed when a gunman went on a shooting spree on the island of Utøya. 

There has been increased security in Norway since the attacks, and a series of government errors in the lead-up to it were published in an inquiry released in 2012, including failure to follow up when the shooter purchased bomb-making ingredients. 

Ardern announced something similar on Monday: a Royal Commission of Inquiry into New Zealand's security and intelligence agencies, after questions were raised over why the alleged shooter did not show up on any intelligence lists. 

"In the wake of this attack, I think it's only right that we go back and look at all the legislation we have and make sure that it's covering off all that we have seen and experienced since the 15th of March," Ardern said. 

Jacinda Ardern speaking to media in Dunedin.
Jacinda Ardern speaking to media in Dunedin. Photo credit: Newshub

When asked about an earlier incident involving a man wanted in relation to firearms who died on Wednesday morning, Ardern said the Government is focused on removing weapons from circulation "that are particularly harmful". 

"We do remain on high alert - that means our agencies are being vigilant, they are responding to leads and information being provided by the public and the police are very, very focused."

Last week she announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles in the wake of the attack, after the alleged gunman purchased assault rifles legally using an A Category gun licence - the standard one in New Zealand.  

Ardern was also asked about a prominent far-right activist's home being raided on Tuesday in Austria (local time) as part of an investigation into possible ties to the alleged Christchurch gunman over a donation. 

"This is a level of operational detail that I would prefer, given the on-going investigations by police, to leave to them," Ardern said, adding that she had not spoken to Austrian authorities.