New terrorism offences proposed for New Zealand in response to Christchurch terror attack

Several new terrorism-related offences have been proposed by the Government - including a clarified definition of a "terrorist act" - in response to the Christchurch terror attack. 

It's the Government's first step in implementing recommendation 18 of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attacks on March 15, 2019, which called for a review of all legislation related to counter-terrorism in New Zealand. 

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi promised the changes in December after the release of the recommendations. He acknowledged the need to "move our legislation to a wider range of terrorist activities and potential terrorist threats".

The proposed changes include: 

  • clarifying the definition of a "terrorist act"
  • creating a new offence for planning a terrorist act
  • creating a new offence to more clearly criminalise terrorist weapons and combat training
  • creating a new offence for international travel to carry out terrorist activities
  • expanding the criminal offence for financing terrorism to include broader forms of support
  • expanding the eligibility for a control order to those who have completed a prison sentence for terrorism, if they continue to pose a risk of reoffending

The control orders proposal relates to the 2019 Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act, a targeted response to manage the risk posed by a small number of New Zealanders who have engaged in terrorism overseas, such as 'Kiwi Jihadi' Mark Taylor.

It gave the police the ability to apply to the High Court to impose control orders, or restrictions, on New Zealanders who have engaged in terrorism overseas.

The control orders impose conditions such as electronic monitoring, restricted internet access, restricted association with some people, meeting with police twice a week, and rehab or reintegration.

The other changes will be made to the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. 

"The crimes perpetrated against members of our Muslim community on March 15 two years ago brought terrorism to this country in a way we had never seen before," Faafoi said on Tuesday.

"The attack also mirrored how the nature of terrorism has been changing internationally, involving lone actors rather than organised terrorist groups. We need to ensure our laws can respond to that."

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi.
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Once the legislation has had its first reading, the next step is for the Justice Select Committee to call for public submissions on the proposals. 

"I encourage everyone to have their say on this important piece of legislation."

The Government agreed in December to implement all 44 recommendations contained in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terror attack. 

It was set up to investigate what state sector agencies knew about the Australian-born terrorist's activities before the attack, measures that could have been taken to prevent it, and how to prevent a similar event.

The Royal Commission concluded in its findings that the concentration of counter-terrorism resources on the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism was "inappropriate".

It found that the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) had "decided to concentrate its scarce counter-terrorism resources on the presenting threat of Islamist extremist terrorism".

But the findings also say the inappropriate concentration of resources on the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism did not contribute to the terrorist's planning and preparation for his attack not being detected.

"For that reason, the public sector agencies involved in the counter-terrorism effort did not fail to anticipate or plan for the terrorist attack due to an inappropriate concentration of counter-terrorism resources," the findings say.

Director-General of the NZSIS Rebecca Kitteridge acknowledged the "need to ensure that there is an appropriate and adequate focus of resources on the range of threats New Zealand faces".

She told a parliamentary committee last month there is "no doubt" that white supremacy extremism is on the rise

She said the NZSIS has been "thinking hard" about how to engage more with the Muslim community since the findings, and that counter-terrorism is now split approximately 50/50 across white supremacist extremism and faith-motivated violent extremism.