‘Surprising’ New Zealand has no strategy to prevent terrorist attacks

Can terrorism prevention in New Zealand be effective without having a strategy. The risk of terrorism can’t be eliminated completely, but some sort of strategy must be a help.

RNZ – Christchurch Attacks: What security agencies are keeping us safe?

The minister responsible for New Zealand’s spy agencies says it’s “surprising” the country doesn’t have a strategy to prevent terrorist attacks.

But Andrew Little maintains the country’s intelligence systems are effective.

“We like to think we have a counter-terrorism means, the ability to respond to something. But we don’t have a strategy that anticipates and prevents or seeks prevention of a terrorist act happening,” he said.

According to research by former army officers Chris Rothery and Terry Johanson, both now academics at Massey University, New Zealand’s entire national security system is “reactionary”, and does not focus on anticipating and preventing terrorist activity.

“There are not many countries that do have a national security strategy, but they do have a more formulated policy [than New Zealand] in regards to a lot of the threats that they’ll face,” Mr Rothery said.

The pair said New Zealand has no national security strategy, no counter-terrorism national strategy and – unlike in Australia,Canada and the United Kingdom – no independent body to check threats are being prioritised properly.

Andrew Little, who is responsible for the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), admitted the focus had been on reacting to events.

“We’ve focused a lot on building up the components you need to have a system that can act and respond, but what we haven’t done is lift it up to the next stage which is having got good foundations, to then think strategically and think ahead and think more robustly about preventative measures.”

This was the case despite a four-year rebuild of the SIS and GCSB, an extension of their legal powers and $200m extra ploughed in since 2016, once an extra $50m included in last week’s Budget is factored in.

The SIS and GCSB did not begin, in earnest, looking into far right activity until mid-2018. The agencies were yet to get to the point of focusing on individuals or organisations when the Christchurch terror attacks happened.

The DPMC stated its counterterrorism approach covered prevention and preparation, plus there was a terrorism risk profile and a framework for preventing violent extremism.

It added that there was a strategic framework drawn up just last year.  The department delayed Insight’s Official Information Act request to be supplied with the framework until later in June.

Governments can’t be fully proactive with everything.

A lot has changed regarding earthquake proofing requirements and guidelines of buildings since the Christchurch earthquakes. And insurance premiums have gone up a lot – it wasn’t just the Government who was unprepared.

There were immediate reactions to the Christchurch mosque massacres, with changes to firearms laws to make it harder to get high capacity rapid fire weapons.

There were also immediate reactions from the Police who arrested a number of people on firearms and hate speech related charges.

We can expect that our secret services are working secretly to substantially improve counter terrorism and deterrence of and prevention of terrorism.

Leave a comment


  1. NOEL

     /  7th June 2019

    So everywhere there were successful terrorist attacks the authorities had no strategy to prevent them?
    Can’t be that many eh?

  2. NOEL

     /  7th June 2019

    No problem it will covered from now on.

    “Undertake investigation and research on New Zealand and international intelligence and security models, methods and structures; review past reports and studies and responses to those, and data to paint an independent picture of New Zealand s current system and performance. Through this research, opportunities for system-level improvements may be identified for the protection and safety of New Zealand and specifically Muslim communities”


  3. phantom snowflake

     /  7th June 2019

    Claims that New Zealand has no terrorism prevention strategy are utterly false. We have had a long-term strategy of keeping peace, environmental, animal rights and Maori activists under ongoing surveillance. And it’s been 100% successful! None of these groups have carried out terrorist attacks. /sarc

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  7th June 2019

    War is too important to be left to the generals and strategy for combating terrorism is the same. It has to balance security against freedom and love against hate.

    So it is a continual balancing of competing objectives in a fluid environment. The best we can hope for is a competent assessment of threats continually revised and addressed. Expecting an overarching strategy is a mirage.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  7th June 2019

      This hate-filled lunatic is an example of the problems in formulating a strategy:

    • Blazer

       /  7th June 2019

      ‘The best we can hope for is a competent assessment of threats continually revised and addressed’

      done by?

      Wars are about resources…its that simple.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  7th June 2019

        Done by many. A whole range of inputs are needed. You could call that a strategy I guess.

      • Pink David

         /  7th June 2019

        “Wars are about resources…its that simple.”

        What resources were the British fighting for when they landed on the beaches of Normandy?

        What resources were the US fighting for when they landed at Inchon?

        • Blazer

           /  7th June 2019

          Countries/land is full of resources.

          Control of resources is political drama ,played out every day.

          Tell me what you think war is about if…you disagree!

          • Pink David

             /  7th June 2019

            “Countries/land is full of resources.”

            I gave two specific examples Please provide proof of you hypothesis.

            “Tell me what you think war is about if…you disagree!”

            You have already decided what the answer is, what is the point in any discussion given your approach to this?

            • Blazer

               /  8th June 2019

              no point when you cannot present a persuasive counter.Thx.

            • Loop

               /  5th April 2020

              Control of an area or region is a resource, the sale of weapons to either side is a potentially multi- million dollar resource. The two example you gave were regions that had battles IN a war, not a war as such

  5. harryk

     /  8th June 2019

    ‘Governments can’t be fully proactive with everything’

    This is what some in the Sri Lankan Govt are saying too. There’s been a War on Terror for many years now. NZ has sent troops. There is no excuse – none – for not having been proactive on terrorism. None. Govt doesn’t have to be proactive with everything. Just the really, really important stuff. The culpability lies firmly with Govt Ministers who failed the Nation, not the security services.

    I ask again – what has Ardern done, if anything, regarding the sale of agricultural fertiliser since the Christchurch attack? Has she done anything at all? Are sales adequately monitored and reported?


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