New Zealand’s Counter-terrorism Strategy: A Critical Assessment

Authors: Battersby, J., Ball, R., & Nelson, N.1

Published in National Security Journal, 23 June 2020

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In mid-February 2020 New Zealand released its long overdue ‘Countering terrorism and violent extremism national strategy.’ This article draws on the experience of three academic commentators who cast a critical eye over the document and whose respective thoughts are brought together here. The approach taken is to discuss the purpose and fundamentals of what strategy is to provide a framework with which to review New Zealand’s first publicly released counter-terrorism strategy. Unfortunately, this important and long overdue strategy, in the view of the authors, comes up well short of what it should be. The authors offer a challenge to New Zealand’s policy makers concerned with national security to seek more depth in the consideration of their approach, to present a strategy with less graphic design, more substantial discussion of the fundamental questions relating to the management of modern terrorism and violent extremism, and an appreciation of the nuanced New Zealand experience with political violence from late twentieth century to the present day.

Keywords:  New Zealand, Counter-terrorism, Violent Extremism, Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism National Strategy, Political Violence, Stolberg, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terrorism 


Unlike its Five Eyes partners, for the first two decades of the 21st century New Zealand perceived itself as little affected by terrorism of any kind and until very recently possessed no specific publicly available national strategy for countering terrorism. Two years after the 1985 Rainbow Warrior incident, the International Terrorism (Emergency Powers) Act was enacted, allowing certain powers in the case of an international terrorist event occurring in New Zealand.1 These powers were only vaguely useful at the time and in the main have been supplanted by subsequent legislation. Unsurprisingly the Act has never been used. Following the 9/11 attacks, and to remain in line with international obligations, New Zealand introduced the Suppression of Terrorism Act in 2002.2


1 Dr John Battersby is a Teaching Fellow, Dr Rhys Ball is a Lecturer and Mr Nick Nelson a Senior Lecturer with the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University. Contact (Corresponding author)