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

Roberts detonated his bomb late at night, probably to avoid casualties other than himself, but the Lynhurst Hospital arsonist and the Rainbow Warrior bombers all claimed after the fact, that they did not intend to harm anyone either.

In 1984 a suitcase was placed inside the Wellington Trades Hall. When it was eventually moved by the care-taker, the bomb inside the suitcase exploded and killed him. The Trades Hall was a well-known hub of union and Left-Wing political activity, leaving it highly likely to have been a politically inspired attack by a perpetrator with Right-Wing leanings. The death toll of one could have been much higher, it was a well-used building located on an arterial route through the city. The case remains open with very recent developments in the case leading to the naming of a suspect.20

In July 1985 New Zealand’s most labelled act of terrorism occurred when French secret service agents entered the country and bombed the Greenpeace protest vessel Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour, sinking it and killing a crew member. Explaining the in- tent of the mission 30 years afterwards, Colonel Jean Luc Kister, the leader of the team that placed the bombs on the vessel’s hull, claimed that the aim was to sink it in shallow water and “not injure anyone”.21 The action was undertaken to prevent the vessel leaving New Zealand to protest at the Mururoa Atoll nuclear testing site. New Zealand, still without any terrorist legislation in 1985, charged the two agents captured afterwards with manslaughter. They were never charged with conspiracy to sink the vessel, nor for the act of doing so. They served one year in a New Zealand prison, before being removed to French territory to serve a much reduced term.

Two years later in May 1987, following the military coup in Fiji, Air New Zealand Flight 24 was hijacked by a man carrying explosives at Nadi airport. New Zealand Special Air Service personnel left enroute to Fiji, but before they arrived the flight crew overpowered the hijacker, hitting him across the head with a whisky bottle. He was charged with illegal possession of explosives in Fiji. He later became a New Zealand citizen and reportedly has since travelled regularly on Air New Zealand flights to Fiji.22

New Zealand’s terrorism tended into recession in the 1990s as the domestic and international stimuli for violence in previous decades subsided. With the end of the Cold War, French nuclear testing and collapse of apartheid in South Africa, the violence related to all of these issues vanished as a result. New Zealand based individuals and groups were periodically discovered by intelligence or police investigators sending funds, and at times materiel, to terrorist groups overseas. These investigations stopped short of prosecution, before and after 9/11, as the culprits were not seen as threatening New Zealand national security.23

Simmering away throughout the entire period however had been a rising challenge to traditional interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi and its application to contemporary issues regarding Maori Land. The creation of the Waitangi Tribunal