Royal Commission report on Christchurch attack prompts initiative to improve diversity in public sector

Andrew Little is the Lead Coordination Minister for the Government’s Response to the Royal Commission.
Andrew Little is the Lead Coordination Minister for the Government’s Response to the Royal Commission. Photo credit: Getty

By Katie Scotcher of RNZ

The Government promises to do more to help the Muslim community scrutinise its every step while responding to the Royal Commission report into the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Its priorities include establishing groups to monitor its implementation of the report's recommendations and boosting diversity in the public sector.

The inquiry's 800-page report was released in December 2020 following a nearly 20-month investigation.

It found there was "no plausible way he [the gunman] could have been detected except by chance".

The report also painted a picture of under-resourced security agencies, a patchy system for information sharing and enforcement, lax practices for firearms licensing and too much of a focus on the threat of Islamic extremism.

The Government promised to implement all 44 recommendations in the report, including further changes to how firearms are managed, hate crime laws, and eventually the creation of a new national security and intelligence agency.

Coordinating minister Andrew Little and Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan have today set out what progress has so far been made following the release of the report, three days out from the two year anniversary of the attack.

The Government plans to create a new initiative that aims to boost the public sector's diversity and create employment opportunities.

The Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme will make it easier for graduates from ethnic communities to enter the public service, which the government says will also increase cultural competency across the sector.

Applications for the first intake are now open.

The Government has extended a fund that allows groups to apply for money to upgrade or implement security measures to reduce the chance of another attack and increase their feeling of safety.

People can submit applications for the $3.255 million fund until 5 May.

Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan.
Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan. Photo credit: RNZ

Oversight of progress

The Government plans to establish two separate groups to monitor its progress implementing the Royal Commission's recommendations.

The Implementation Oversight Advisory Group will ensure the response is "timely and effective", while the Collective Impact Board will involve families affected by the 15 March attack to advise on their long-term recovery needs.

Nominations for both groups will open on Monday.

Also, $1m will be spent over three years to help minority ethnic and faith communities engage with the Government and inform its response to the Royal Commission.

The fund will be prioritised for those most directly affected by the attack.

Little says the fund will help to address the disparity in resources between community groups and the state.

"A key message to come out of the hui was the need for government to recognise that community representative groups involved in engagement are usually non-profit with unpaid voluntary staff," Little says.

The full implementation of the Royal Commission's recommendations is a "long-term programme of work," Little added.

"We are committed to strengthening social cohesion and ensuring that New Zealand is fair and safe for all."

Community hui

Today's announcement follows 33 hui across the country between the Government and Muslim, pan-ethnic and multi-faith communities.

A report from the hui shows there's concern no individual or government agency was found to be at fault for the terror attack in the report and that before May 2018 the NZSIS focused too heavily on the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism.

"Communities wanted to understand this finding and understand changes that had been implemented to address this since March 15.

"Some questioned how effective change could occur if the leadership of agencies remained the same. Muslim communities expressed to us continued distrust in the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service," the report said.

The education sector was a focus for many and in particular its role in helping to create a more socially cohesive country.

"There are deep concerns about racism and faith-based bullying and discrimination in our schools. Many told us they were concerned about the cultural competency of teachers and principals, which they felt hindered schools being able to respond to incidents effectively and appropriately," it said.

The Government was asked to provide better training for staff and to include religious and cultural education programmes into school curriculums.

It was also told that many communities continue to feel unsafe and regularly experience racism and hate incidents.

"Communities expressed a persistent feeling of insecurity and being unable to live ordinary lives. Many members of the Muslim communities discussed still feeling unsafe visiting the masjid ... these safety concerns particularly affect Muslim women who wear a hijab," the report said.

Hate speech and hate crime are also frequently experienced the government was told and it was urged to look at legislative reform as an important tool for change.