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

Authors: Battersby, J., Ball, R., & Nelson, N.
Published in National Security Journal, 23 June 2020

  • Social inclusion,
  • The Christchurch Call and related work,
  • Crowded Places strategy public information,
  • Public messaging on how to stay safe during a terrorism attack,
  • Tip-off messaging,
  • Annual threat environment report,
  • The gun buy-back campaign,
  • A Terrorism and violent extremism language resource,
  • Media engagement, and a
  • Counter-terrorism public information review.

Enough has been said here about the difficulties of social inclusion. The Christchurch Call to date has revealed how genuinely impossible it is to control the content of social media platforms. One security commentator has opined recently that the Christchurch Call may not last beyond Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s tenure as Prime Minister, being a policy very much linked to her personally.52 New Zealand has done some, but not much, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and the concept has only a few genuine qualified practitioners in New Zealand. It has also done little in terms of securing public spaces from lone actor shooters, bombers, vehicular attackers or other more improvised attack modes. The vast number of public places, streets and private-public venues in New Zealand, where potentially such attacks could occur, will be a major barrier to positive progress here. The Australian 2017-released Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism – ironically authored by the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) – explicitly and quite literally links to terrorism. Probably prompted by the ANZCTC a New Zealand Crowded Places Strategy has been the offing for some time, but it has still not been publicly released so how well it links to New Zealand’s ‘Counter terrorism and violent extremism national strategy’ remains unclear.53

Public messaging on how to stay safe in a terrorist attack is widely accessible on the internet, available for anyone to read – including prospective and potential terrorists planning their attacks. Whether this messaging is effective or not is largely unresearched. Tip-off messaging is available already, has identified potential risks in New Zealand and should be continued. The annual threat environment report is a continuance or simple extension of existing annual government agency reporting and is not new.

The Gun buy-back campaign has been incorporated in the strategy document. The immediate suspension of over-the-counter purchasing of Military Style Semi-Automatics (MSSAs) was inevitable and necessary to prevent a repeat of 15 March, but the further step of a buy-back required some fuller consideration. There has been significant international research on the effectiveness of arms reform involving gun buy-backs as a crime mitigation approach. However different researchers using