Since the shootings in Christchurch on March 15, questions have been asked about how the lone accused, 28-year-old Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, was not flagged by security agencies on either side of the Tasman.
While the government last week promised a probe would be held, Ardern on Monday confirmed it would be a royal commission – the most serious form of investigation possible into failures of government.
“While New Zealanders and Muslim communities around the world are both grieving and showing compassion, they are also quite rightly asking about how this terror attack was able to happen here,” she told reporters in Wellington.
“In short, the inquiry will look at what have and should have been done to prevent the attack. It will inquire into the individual and his activities before the terrorist attack.”
Spy agencies and immigration to be investigated
Intelligence agencies, police, customs and the immigration department will be subject to investigation.
New Zealand’s two spy agencies have both confirmed they were not keeping tabs on Tarrant. They have welcomed an investigation.
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The minister in charge of New Zealand intelligence departments, Andrew Little, has denied suggestions authorities had not paid enough attention to far-right extremists and said an increased focus had been put on alt-right and white supremacy over the past year.
Ardern said the commission would look into whether the resources of spies had been directed in the right direction.
“I want recommendations on how any such attack in the future could be stopped,” she said.
Banned live stream of shooting still circulating social media
Separately, Ardern said her government was also looking at social media companies as a live stream of the shooting continues to circulate online despite authorities and the likes of Facebook working to have it taken down.
Facebook said it pulled down the video 1.5 million times in the first day after the attack.
“My question generally, across all of these platforms, is what can we put in place or have assurances around to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Ardern said.
“We are as a cabinet having a conversation around meaningful change in the area of social media, so I am expecting further advice in that area.”
Several people are already being prosecuted for distributing the now-banned video in New Zealand and face up to 14 years’ jail.
Tarrant expected to face further charges
Tarrant is known to have participated on internet forums populated by right-wing extremists and foreshadowed the attack online, posting a rambling 74-page “manifesto” – now also banned in New Zealand – before live-streaming the attack using a helmet camera.
Currently charged with one count of murder, he is expected to face more charges when he returns to court next week.
Ardern reiterated that while no final decision had been made about whether Tarrant could be deported, he would face justice in New Zealand. Convicts are generally not deported from New Zealand until after their sentence has been served.
New Zealand last week announced a ban on all military-style semi-automatic rifles and dangerous modifications in response to the shooting, with further changes to gun laws expected in coming weeks.
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