Now is the time for change, announced the NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just minutes ago.
Our gun laws will change. Firearms, border controls, aviation security will be strengthened along with enhanced information sharing with Australia. The safety of New Zealanders is our highest priority, says the Prime Minister. Christchurch residents are urged to stay home and stay safe.
This press conference is still live at the time of this posting.
Excerpt from Prime Minister’s Update
FIRST UPDATE Saturday 16 March 2019
A total of 49 people have been killed.
Working is underway to confirm their identities as quickly as possible. 41 people died at Deans Avenue mosque, 7 at the Lin wood Avenue Mosque, and one person has since died in hospital.
Over 40 people are being treated for injuries at Christchurch hospital. They have all been identified and those names have been shared with the community. Two of those are in critical condition and also a five-year-old child has been transported today to Starship Hospital in Auckland. This is the only transfer that has taken place.
I am advised that the hospital is well equipped and coping well. There are available beds and seven acute theatres for those in need. Pathologists from throughout the country have made themselves available and we have additional pathologists coming in from Australia.
Three people have been arrested in relation to this event. One Australian citizen will appear in court today charged with murder. This individual has travelled around the world with sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand. They were not a resident of Christchurch. In fact, they were currently based in Dunedin at the time of this incident.
Enquiries are ongoing to establish whether the other two who were arrested were directly involved with this incident.
The fourth person who was arrested yesterday was a member of the public who was in possession of a firearm but with the intention of assisting police. They have since been released. Police are working to build a picture of anyone who might be involved and all of their activities prior to this event.
None of those apprehended had a criminal history either here or in Australia. And as I said last night, they were not on any watchlist either here or in Australia.
I want to be very clear though that our intelligence community and police are focused on extremism of every kind. Given global indicators around far right extremism, our intelligence community has been stepping up their investigations in this area. The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community, nor the police for extremism.
I have asked our agencies this morning to work swiftly on assessing whether there was any activity on social media or otherwise that should have triggered a response. That work is already under way.
Today as the country grieves, we are seeking answers.
I want to speak specifically about the firearms used in this terrorist act.
I’m advised that there were five guns used by the primary perpetrator. There were two semi-automatic weapons, and two shotguns. The offender was in possession of a gun licence. I’m advised that this was acquired of November 2017. A lever action firearm was also found.
While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence, and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now. Our gun laws will change.
There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.There are obviously questions being asked of how this person was able to enter the country and undertake this act of terror.
I have instructed ODESC to report to Cabinet on Monday on this sequence of events with a view to strengthening our systems on a range of fronts including but not limited to, firearms, border controls, enhanced information sharing with Australia and any practical reinforcement of our watch list processes.
I want to come now to what people can expect over the course of the day and beyond.The safety of New Zealanders is our highest priority.
New Zealand Police remain on high alert. Christchurch residents are strongly urged to stay home if possible and stay safe. Please monitor the Police website and social media for further information.
If you see something suspicious then call 111 immediately.
A number of events are being held across the country today and there will be an increased Police presence.Police have additional patrols out on the streets of Christchurch to reassure the community.
They have flown in 45 additional police staff to Christchurch with a further 80 staff arriving today.The additional police staffing includes public safety teams, detectives, tactical specialists and intelligence support.
Staff from other DHBs have offered support as required.There will be additional support provided in Christchurch for mental health and psychosocial needs.If anyone needs to speak to someone or if they are feeling distressed I encourage you to call or text 1737. There are extra staff available. That number is available to everyone.
Police are aware of distressing material relating to this event being online and are reminding people it is an offence to distribute objectionable material.
To recap on activities to date and the response that occurred yesterday.Police immediately secured the areas involved and ensured that people were kept safe, including schools and offices being locked down.
Police made arrests swiftly and a man will appear in court this morning.Defence specialists quickly moved to assist police to make the improvised explosive devices safe.I want to make special mention of those who are involved in parts of the operation involving disarming devices and undertaking the arrests themselves.
Many of you may have seen the footage of the arrest and I can only describe it as an act of bravery on behalf of all New Zealanders and an act that showed very little regard for their own personal safety.I’m sure everyone in New Zealand wants to acknowledge the police and particularly the officer who made that arrest yesterday.
I also want to acknowledge ambulance staff who many will have seen acting swiftly under horrific conditions and all medical staff who continue to work with those who are injured.NZ Defence Force at Burnham Camp yesterday were put on standby to assist police in Christchurch.
Mosques around the country were provided with advice from police to help keep them secure and advised to remain closed. This advice continues as does the police presence at mosques around the country.
The national threat level was raised to high, which triggers a number of actions to help keep people safe, such as increased aviation and border security.
A number of specialist family liaison staff were deployed.Close liaison has been established with the Muslim community and other key people in Christchurch.
Police and the wider government will be working with leaders and members of the Islamic Community to provide assistance, reassurance and support.
An 0800 number established to register missing persons – 0800 115019 – and a website, Restoring Family Links (RFL).
MFAT are acting as a liaison point for foreign governments – consular representation for any foreign nations involved has been provided. At this stage I understand those involved include Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.
MFAT staff are dealing with offers of assistance, and are receiving a significant number of condolence messages.Deputy Commissioner Maori and Ethnic Services Wally Haumaha has travelled to Christchurch, alongside 15 additional ethnic liaison officers to support the community.
These specialists will work alongside local staff to support the families involved.They are assisting to repatriate them with their loved ones in a way that is consistent with Muslim beliefs, while taking into account these particular circumstances and obligations to the coroner.
I want to finish by saying that while the nation grapples with a form of grief and anger that we have not experienced before, we are seeking answers.
After this media conference I will board a defence force plane and travel to Christchurch. I will have other political leaders with me including the Leader of the Opposition.As is the entire nation, we are all unified in grieving together.