Muslim leader slams Government's Christchurch terror response as a 'joke'

A Muslim community leader has slammed the "paltry" amount of money being allocated to the Government's efforts to help those still suffering from the effects of the Christchurch terror attack.

Fifty-one people died when a gunman opened fire at two mosques on March 15, 2019. An event marking the anniversary will be held Saturday afternoon - the first after last year's planned commemoration was cancelled as the COVID-19 threat arrived on our shores.

On Friday Andrew Little, the minister responsible for the Government's ongoing response to the terror attack, announced a $1 million package to be spent over three years "to support individual initiatives, as well as building long-term capability within communities".

"The $1 million fund is actually to allow the various organisations that represent these communities and others to engage with the Government," Little told Newshub Nation on Saturday. 

Aliya Danzeisen of the Islamic Women's Council of NZ said this amounted to a cup of coffee per member of the Muslim community per year. 

"They're handing us a cup of coffee... [how am I] supposed to build a community with $5?" she told Newshub Nation, bemoaning the lack of financial support for the survivors and their families.

She said the families of the victims of Norway's 2011 mass shooting received NZ$850,000 in compensation each - and a decade later they're still struggling.

"We anticipate in our community we're going to be seeing the same thing."

Aliya Danzeisen
Aliya Danzeisen talks to host Simon Shepherd. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Little said there were no plans for a compensation package outside of what was already on offer through ACC.

"We need to make sure those who are still suffering trauma - and will for some time - are getting the psychosocial support that they need. But we're not looking at any particular compensation package. 

"Those who are entitled to ACC would have got it, those who are entitled to other social security support would have got it, and some may continue to get it. But we're not looking at any other form of compensation."

ACC doesn't cover psychological harm.

"It is possible to provide psychosocial support for those who don't qualify to get it from ACC - we've got to make sure that happens," said Little. "It did happen in the immediate aftermath of the attack... 

"The bigger question about, should ACC cover trauma for things other than physical injury, that's a bigger question. I know my colleague Carmel Sepuloni, the Minister for ACC, is interested in looking at that at some point, but we don't have a work programme on that at the moment."

Andrew Little.
Andrew Little. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

He said a proposal last year for a $35 million compensation package couldn't be justified, as it would have "huge implications that go beyond this admittedly extraordinary terrorist event". 

Little said the new collective impact board - made up of Muslim leaders and senior offiicals from Government departments - would ensure the community was getting the support it needs. 

But Danzeisen said it wouldn't work without more funding. 

"You can't just say 'we want this' and it appears."

In addition to compensation, Danzeisen says in charge of the spy agencies at the time of the attack need to "step off". 

"We need both. We need people who weren't creative enough and able to lead these agencies to step off... they should be able to recognise that they didn't handle it and move on. But if they're not moving on, push them on... They didn't do what they're supposed to do. SIS and the Government are supposed to protect us as a community and they didn't do that."

Little says the royal commission found no one was at fault, so he wouldn't be looking to have anyone fired.

"As a Government minister I've got to follow the findings of the royal commission - I don't have the right to make my own findings up. What we're doing is consistent with the royal commission's findings."

Danzeisen called his response a "joke", because the royal commission wasn't allowed to point the finger at anyone. 

"For the Government to say they've been exonerated or they didn't fail is a joke... They need to stop that and start acting."

Earlier this month new threats against the two mosques targeted in 2019 were found by a member of the public. They were made on 4chan, a site used by the Christchurch gunman before carrying out his atrocity. 

Questions have been asked how a member of the public found the threats before our spy agencies did. 

"There will be people who go on platforms like this and thousands of others, and gaming platforms, who will say all sorts of things," said Little. "What our agencies have to be alert to is mobilisation to violence. That's what they're focused on." 

He said had confidence any threats to anniversary events this week would be stopped.