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Source: New Zealand Government

E aku nui, e aku rahi,

Te whaka-kanohi mai o rātou mā,

Ru-ruku-tia i runga i te ngākau whakapono,

Ru-ruku-tia i runga i te ngākau aroha,

Waitaha, Ngāti Mamoe, Ngai Tahu, nāu rā te reo pohiri.

Tena tātou katoa.

Ki te kotahi te kakaho ka whati, ki te kapuia, e kore e whati.

To this large gathering of respected leaders in many fields

We gather on the platform created by those who have gone before us

We have come together to bind in belief and hope

We have come together to bind in love and understanding

On the pohiri of waitaha, Ngāti Mamoe and Ngai Tahu, greetings to us all.

As individuals we will falter.

As a collective we will never be broken

As-salaam Alaikum 

I would like to extend a warm welcome to the survivors and family of the Shuhadah, along with representatives from our communities, academia, members of civil society, and those from the private sector, NGOs and public sector.

My greetings to Ngāi Tahu Whānui. Thank you once again for hosting us here in Christchurch.

I acknowledge Minister Andrew Little, Lead Coordination Minister of the Royal Commission and Minister of the NZSIS and GCSB.

Our Police Minister Poto Williams.

And Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan, the first minister to hold the newly named portfolio of Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities

Today represents an important milestone for Aotearoa.

He Whenua Taurikura is New Zealand’s first hui on countering terrorism and violent extremism.

That means it is the first time in our nation’s history, we have come together openly, as part of a public conversation, to build an understanding of the research on radicalisation; to look at ways we can challenge hate-motivated extremist ideologies; and to facilitate a discussion about our priorities to address New Zealand’s terrorism and violent extremism issues.

Today we come together to listen, to learn and to share – both our knowledge and our experiences.

And to leave, we hope, an Aotearoa that is stronger, more resilient, more inclusive and ultimately safer as a result.

To everyone who has come here to share their lived experiences, probably not for the first time, but have persisted nonetheless so we can learn and create the change we need, thank you.

Today, I want to start in the same place where we find the origins of this hui – March 15, 2019.

The terrorist attack on the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch was an unprecedented event in our country.

The 51 Shuhadah who died were peacefully worshipping in their place of faith.

They were husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.

They were loved and valued members of our society

But if they are to remain at the centre of our response to March 15 and our efforts to prevent another such event, then we have a lot of work to do.

Terrorism aims to create a sense fear, but also to shake our beliefs and cause division. 

But in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the Muslim community in Aotearoa was resolute that the terrorist would not succeed in this regard

That determination was then matched by a response from the wider New Zealand public that I could only describe as manaakitanga.

But New Zealand’s outpouring of grief, and the overwhelming sense of empathy and solidarity cannot change the experiences that many members of the Muslim community experienced before that day, and have experienced since.

And the same could be said for a range of communities who have faced racism and discrimination based on their ethnicity or religion.

Some might ask, what does that have to do with counter terrorism strategies? My answer is – everything.

New Zealand’s counter-terrorism strategy, released in February 2020 captures that sentiment. There are four pillars to the strategy. 

The first is UNDERSTAND. We detect and understand the threat, while our people look out for each other and know what to do when something happens.

The second is WORK TOGETHER. We work collectively as a nation to reduce the risk. Which means creating dialogue around what those risks are. 

The third is PREVENT. We focus our efforts and capabilities on long term prevention. 

And finally, we are READY TO RESPOND AND RECOVER. We take a victim-centred approach, responding swiftly to protect lives and working in partnership to promote recovery. 

The Strategy details a comprehensive long-term programme of work, which includes supporting communities to be inclusive and engaged, reducing racism and hate speech, countering violent extremism online, and ensuring people have the right information to keep themselves and others safe from a terrorism incident.

I want to spend a bit of time today giving an update on where we are at on some of the different action points within the strategy, but also highlighting those areas where we are seeking guidance and ideas on strengthening our counter terrorism strategy in a uniquely New Zealand way – recognising our treaty relationship, our diversity, and our values.

Undoubtedly, our counter terrorism work programme has been recently shaped by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into March 15. And that is as it should be.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry is the most serious response to an issue available to the New Zealand Government, and it was engaged to fact-find and to help prevent future recurrences.

Delivered in December last year, it made 44 recommendations covering both national security and wider social and community matters.  It was shaped by extensive consultation, and by its very nature it demands that we both listen and respond. 

And we have. 

We have accepted the findings of the report and agreed in principle to all the recommendations.

First, we are continuing to work on issues central to representation and building capability. 

This hui is part of that.

The Royal Commission recognised that to effectively respond to terrorism and violent extremism, we need to bring together different parts of society to create opportunities, build relationships and share understanding.

Many of you will also be familiar with our plans to establish a Centre of Excellence.

The Centre will bring a uniquely national focus to research on preventing and countering violent extremism, understanding diversity, and promoting social cohesion.

Over the next two days you will have the opportunity to help shape the Centre, help inform public discussion and guide the work of policy agencies across government. 

My view is that New Zealand has something unique to offer in the counter terrorism space, and the ongoing work of the centre of excellence will be our opportunity to do that.

This is not the only change that is being made to our institutions. You will be aware we are establishing the Ministry for Ethnic Communities, which will be in place from the first of July.

Our goals is that the new Ministry will ensure better outcomes for ethnic communities and offer a chance for new beginnings.

It will increase the standing and mana of the agency, and provide a greater ability to deliver on the ongoing work to better support and respond to the needs of our ethnically diverse communities

But we also know we need to improve capability and diversity across the public sector, which is why we have established an ethnic communities graduate programme to create opportunities and build the knowledge and experience in central government and beyond.

At the same time, the Royal Commission of Inquiry Ethnic and Faith Community Engagement Response Fund will help minority ethnic and faith communities share their own voice as we respond to the Royal Commission.

This fund of $1 million over three years prioritises funding for groups most directly affected by the attack and can be used to support individual initiatives, as well as building long-term capability within communities

The next incredibly important area of work is community safety. The sad reality is that a number of our different religious groups do not feel safe in places or sites where they worship. The Safer Communities Fund was established in 2019 to help address this.

Funding was provided to upgrade and implement security measures to help reduce the threat and fear from a potential terrorist attack or hate incident.

While the initial focus of the fund was on improving security at sites of worship in the Muslim and Jewish communities, its scope has since been widened to include other communities also at risk of hate crime and terrorism.

Additional funding was provided for the Safer Communities Fund in 2020, and this will go to successful applicants next month

But creating a sense of safety and security doesn’t just mean cameras, or gates. It’s also about how we respond if something does happen.

The establishment of the police programme Te Raranga – The Weave is designed to improve the Police’s approach and practice to identify, record, and manage hate crime, and deliver a service that’s more responsive to victims.

This includes working with communities to reduce incidents of hate crime, supporting those impacted by any incidents that do occur, and training police on lived experience.

It was specifically named Te Raranga to reflect the need and importance to weave people, whānau and communities together, to foster a shared understanding.

The first phases of consultation are currently underway to inform the design of the programme

Next we move into some of the legislative tools we have, and how we improve them in the counter terrorism space. 

We have introduced the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill to ensure we have the right legislative means to help prevent and respond to terrorism. 

It will create new criminal offences for actions a terrorist may take prior to carrying out a terrorist attack, to allow the Government to intervene earlier to prevent loss of life. 

These include planning or preparing for a terrorist act, undertaking terrorist weapons and combat training, and travelling across New Zealand’s border to carry out terrorist activities. 

It also extends the control orders regime so that the risks posed by people who’ve been convicted of a terrorism offence can be better managed, and expands the criminal offence of financing terrorism to cover a broader range of support.

We are also bringing forward a review of the Intelligence and Security Act so that we can consider the recommendations and issues raised by the Royal Commission in relation to the Act in a timely way.

This is in addition to much needed work on firearms legislation. We have of course already banned military style semi-automatic weapons.  Police have also taken steps, which are ongoing, to improve their administration of the Arms Act.

This has included new training and resources, and updated quality assurance and approval processes for firearms licensing and vetting.

Everyone who read the Royal Commission knows this is an area that required change. And The Commissioner of Police acknowledges there’s still work to do – but we will continue to give this area the focus it needs and deserves.

The final area of legislative change relates to the work we’re doing online.

After the attack on March 15 the Government approved several initiatives to counter violent extremism online. 

There are three main components of this work:

One – policy and legislative changes, including changes to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. 

Two, the establishment of a dedicated team in the Department of Internal Affairs to reduce the harm of violent extremist content online.

This team is now fully embedded in the Digital Safety Group. It has overseen investigations of violent extremist content and where appropriate worked with online platforms to have harmful content removed.

And three – a long-term strategy for how the Department of Internal Affairs can contribute to the prevention of violent extremism in New Zealand.

The Christchurch attacks were distinguished by the calculated, deliberate abuse of online platforms, on an unprecedented scale.

The Royal Commission Report makes it clear online platforms played a crucial role in the attacker’s journey to radicalisation and violence.

He learned his techniques online, connected with others who spread the same hateful views, and then used the internet to livestream the attack across New Zealand and the world.

New Zealand places huge value on the internet as a force for good. But we also recognise it can and has been used as a vehicle for hatred, racism, and extreme violence.

I am pleased online platforms, governments and civil society groups from around the world are working with us to tackle this problem, including through the Christchurch Call.

The Christchurch call has led to real improvements in the way online platforms address terrorist and violent extremist content, and generated important policy changes from platforms and governments.

The Call has improved crisis response and readiness; and it has led to establishment of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism as an independent and better-resourced entity where we work together on technical solutions, share information and expertise, and take forward the Call’s commitments.

One month ago, the Call Community had its second anniversary Summit. 

We agreed on a detailed work plan for the next year, including:

•        growing the diversity, size and reach of the Christchurch Call community

•        improving our understanding of social media algorithms and the role they may play in driving users towards violent extremist and terrorist content

•        building a better picture of online user journeys and the possible intervention points for communities to disrupt and prevent radicalisation and

•        better transparency from both companies and governments on the work we are doing in this area.

Along the way we’ve built a community that includes 55 countries, international organisations, 10 online service providers, and a global network of experts. While it has not always been perfect, we’ve worked hard to advance this work in an open and community-led way.

And yet, as with most of the subject areas I’ve touched on, be they capability, security, or intervention – there’s clearly still more to do.

I’ll be interested in your views during the Hui on how we shape and continue this work programme.

We’ll also continue to keep a check on our progress against the Royal Commission’s recommendations,including via the implementation oversight advisory group, which will hold its first meeting in two weeks and be chaired by Arihia Bennett of Ngai Tahu.

To finish today, I wanted to end with a sentiment that was shared by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the conclusion of the last Christchurch call meeting.

The country she leads, Norway, experienced a terror attack on 22 July 2011. I remember it so well. It happened at a youth summer camp, and targeted the youth division of the Norwegian Labour Party – an organisation where I knew several young people. 

Over 70 people were killed in total, at the hand of what was described as a right wing extremist.

Prime Minister Solberg spoke for several minutes about the reason she supported the Christchurch Call, but then went onto speak about the importance of the Call’s focus on prevention

The Call specifically commits governments to “counter the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism by strengthening the resilience and inclusiveness of our societies.

Prime Minister Solberg summed it up quite simply when she said “you don’t attack what you feel you belong to”.

And so I finish where I began. And where we all need to begin. And that is with the root causes of terrorism, hatred, racism and discrimination. 

Here initiatives like He Aranga Ake, the New Zealand Police’s early intervention programme which will work with individuals displaying concerning behaviour and direct their behaviour away from violent extremism, or the work we do in schools on racism and bullying, or our efforts on hate speech, or the work on social cohesion being led by Minister Radakrishnan – all of this matters enormously. 

We want to be a country where people feel they belong, where all cultures are valued and celebrated, and where everyone can participate and contribute.

We want people to feel they can openly express their identities, culture and beliefs and in doing so feel accepted and safe.

We want to support communities to welcome diversity, and to feel able to share and discuss sometimes different points of view in a constructive and respectful way. 

But the lived experience of far too many of our communities does not align with this vision.

That is why we have work to do.

Thank you for being a part of the journey ahead.

For sharing your knowledge, your expertise, and your passion. It won’t be the only time we ask you to do that. But I hope you see your views and ideas reflected in where we go from here – towards a more inclusive and safer Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Ko tātou tatou, As-salaam Alaikum