The Government has taken the first step towards changing New Zealand’s anti-terrorism laws in the wake of the March 15 attacks on two Christchurch mosques.

On Tuesday April 13, it introduced the counter-terrorism legislation bill. The proposed laws are intended to boost New Zealand’s response to terrorist activities, it says. 

Proposed changes include clarifying the definition of a “terrorist act” and making it a criminal offence to plan or prepare for a terrorist act. The bill also proposes a clearer pathway for bringing criminal charges in relation to terrorist weapons and combat training. 

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi says it is the first step to implementing a recommendation from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks to review counter-terrorism legislation. 

The inquiry report, published in December, found while government agencies failed to protect Muslim communities, there were no clear signs the March attack was imminent - apart from the gunman’s manifesto released shortly before the shootings. Importantly, it detailed failures in the police gun licence vetting system, and how intelligence agencies focused on threats posed by Islamic extremism rather than white supremacists. Overall, the Government agreed to all 44 recommendations the inquiry made.  

The new bill seeks changes to the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 and the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act 2019. The public will be able to give submissions on it when it is at select committee stage after its first reading. 

“The crimes perpetrated against members of our Muslim community on March 15, two years ago, brought terrorism to this country in a way we had never seen before,” Faafoi says.  

“The attack also mirrored how the nature of terrorism has been changing internationally, involving lone actors rather than organised terrorist groups. We need to ensure our laws can respond to that.”

Other proposed changes include lowering the threshold required for a control order so those who have completed a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offence can be issued one if they are deemed to be an ongoing terrorism risk. The bill also seeks to create a new offence around traveling internationally for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities. 

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