The Ghost of New Zealand’s Terrorism Past and Present

Author: Battersby, J. M.
Published in National Security Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2019

Shadbolt was not the only Left-Wing apologist distancing themselves from, but ultimately justifying the violent actions of those who did them. The theme of ‘bringing the war home’ as a driver for Left-Wing violence, has also been noted as a prevailing influence for the emergence of the Right-Wing terrorist movements in the US, driven predominantly by those returning from the war who also considered their government was ignoring them.7

Amid an international upsurge in aircraft hijackings during the 1970s, hijack threats were made against Air New Zealand flights destined for French Polynesia in response to French nuclear testing in the early 1970s. Concern was sufficient that guards were placed on Air New Zealand flights to French territories in the early 1970s.8 There were occasional bomb threats associated with the nuclear testing issue throughout the 1970s.

The abortion debate in the early 1970s led to animated protest from both pro and anti-abortion groups, which saw a number of arsons targeting buildings associated with the pro-abortion movement.9 The abortion debate rumbled on for years with protest occasionally straying into acts of destruction. Even as late as 2000, an anti-bortion activist was convicted of attempted arson after disabling the sprinkler system in Lynhurst Hospital in Christchurch, and then tunnelling underneath to set the building on fire. The sentencing judge was not convinced by the perpetrator’s claim that he did not intend to hurt anyone!10

The first act of international terrorism in New Zealand occurred in October 1975 when three adherents of Ananda Marga, a religious sect of Hindu origin, broke into a quarry intending to steal gelignite to bomb the Indian High Commission in Wellington. This was in response to the banning of Ananda Marga in India, and incarceration of its leader on suspicion of murder.11  While the plot was discovered by chance, the New Zealand Police quickly realised that a marked change in behaviour had taken place by a small cabal, apparently masking their activities from their own wider group, operating on both sides of the Tasman.12 Subsequent activity in Australia ultimately culminated in the bombing of the Sydney Hilton Hotel in 1978, killing three people.

However, New Zealand had no terrorism legislation in 1975, those caught then were charged with attempted arson. The New Zealand Police Terrorist Intelligence Unit (PTIU) monitored Ananda Marga for some years afterwards, but this suddenly ceased in 1979.13 A large file of accumulated information “was later destroyed” containing “much information that was not based on fact”.14 In the aftermath of the 1975 incident NZ Police continued their monitoring of Ananda Marga, but perhaps started to see threats where there weren’t any – they then destroyed valuable evidence of how the apparent ‘phantom’ information had come about.

In 1976 two men were killed in Auckland when the bomb they were making exploded prematurely. The men were “fringe members” of the Hare Krishna movement and had