National security advisors warn COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine rollout could trigger terror attack

New Zealand's national security advisors have issued a blunt warning - COVID-19 has increased the risk of a terror attack in New Zealand.

In documents obtained by Newshub advisors admit further restrictions or vaccination programmes could be triggers for violent extremists to conduct an act of terror.

"We are not immune to acts of terrorism in this country, we're not immune to lone wolf or lone actor actions as we've seen," says Intelligence Agencies Minister Andrew Little.

The Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) is an inter-agency group made up of the likes of the NZSIS, Police, Defence Force and Corrections.

It predicts "it is likely that the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will have a detrimental effect on the New Zealand terrorism threat environment".

It says during lockdown people were likely to have greater exposure to online extremist content due to spending more time online which could result in more radicalised individuals.

"It is a risk, it is a threat, but I'm confident we're across it," Little says.

The group also warns of an increase in anti-Government narratives driven by the pandemic response.

"Further restrictions or potential vaccination programmes in New Zealand could be triggers for New Zealand-based violent extremists to conduct an act of terrorist violence."

They predict a lone actor attack is most likely but admit a small group with anti-Government sentiment could turn violent.

"We assess any mobilisation to violence by a politically motivated violent extremist-aligned individual in New Zealand would most likely be as a lone actor. However, we assess a small cell with anti-Government sentiment mobilising to violence remains a realistic possibility."

Little says authorities are looking out for those who make credible threats of mobilising for violence.

"That's what we have to be alert to the most," Little says.

The Prime Minister's been a target of COVID-related hostility, forcing her to cancel several COVID-related engagements.

"She'll be aware of the threats but she has a good security team around her," Little says.

"Regardless of your position, there's a place for everyone's voice to be heard. Please just make it kind," Jacinda Ardern says.

The public is being urged to take this terror threat seriously.

"We would be foolish to ignore the possibility that some of these people are going to go from making threats to actually carrying them out," says Massey University Professor Emeritus Paul Spoonley.

"I think COVID is a gamechanger, I think the anxiety but also the politics which are very anti-Government that are occuring at the moment have significantly increased the possibility that we're going to get violence and possibly terrorist attacks."

The Director-General of Security declined an interview but said in a statement that CTAG continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 on our terror threat, as our response to the pandemic evolves.