The Terms of Reference, set by the New Zealand Government, can be read in full here(external link).

Translated versions are available as PDFs.

Summary of the Terms of Reference

The following is a brief summary of the Terms of Reference. It does not replace the specifics set out in the full Terms of Reference(external link).


On 15 March 2019, an individual attacked the Al-Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch while worshippers were at prayer. Fifty-one people were killed and more than 50 others injured, some seriously.

A man has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act, and has been convicted of those offences.

The Government announced that a Royal Commission of Inquiry would look into what State sector agencies knew about the individual’s activities before the attack, what, if anything, they did with that information, what measures agencies could have taken to prevent the attack, and what measures agencies should take to prevent such attacks in the future.

The Royal Commission is to present its report, by 26 November 2020, so the Government can reassure the New Zealand public, including its Muslim communities, that all appropriate measures are being taken to keep people safe.

Scope of Inquiry

The Royal Commission is to examine:

  • what State sector agencies knew about the accused attacker, before 15 March 2019
  • what State sector agencies did (if anything) with that knowledge
  • whether there was anything else State sector agencies could have done to prevent the attack
  • what else State sector agencies should do to prevent such attacks in the future.

The Royal Commission also needs to investigate the accused attacker’s activities before 15 March 2019, including:

  • his time in Australia
  • his arrival and residence in New Zealand
  • his travel within New Zealand, and internationally
  • how he obtained a gun licence, weapons, and ammunition
  • his use of social media and other online media
  • his connections with others, whether in New Zealand or internationally.


The Royal Commission must make findings on:

  • whether State agencies had information that could have alerted them to the attack
  • how State agencies worked with each other and shared information
  • whether State agencies failed to anticipate the attack because they were focused elsewhere
  • whether State agencies were in some way at fault
  • any other matters to provide a complete report.


The Royal Commission must make recommendations on:

  • what improvements could be made to the way State agencies gather, share and analyse information
  • how State agency systems could be improved to prevent future attacks
  • any other matters to provide a complete report.

These recommendations could include changes to legislation (except firearm legislation), policy, rules, standards or practices.

What the Royal Commission can’t look at

The Royal Commission cannot inquire into:

  • the guilt or innocence of any individual who has been, or may be, charged with offences in relation to the attack
  • amendments to firearms legislation
  • activity by entities/organisations outside the State sector (such as media platforms)
  • the response to the attack once it had begun.


The Royal Commission can consult with a range of groups, individuals and agencies to help with its inquiries. It must also appoint a person, or people, to help it engage with New Zealand’s Muslim communities.


The Royal Commission must act in a way to minimise the chance that its processes or report could be used for unlawful activities or damage the public interest.

The Royal Commission can suppress any confidential information it receives in order to protect public safety, avoid prejudicing the Government’s international relationships and maintenance of the law. In order keep this confidence, the Royal Commission may conduct its inquiry, or parts of it, in private.


The Royal Commission must present its report, including its findings and recommendations, to the Governor-General, in writing, no later than 26 November 2020. The Royal Commission may also make interim recommendations to the Governor-General at any time.

Before presenting its final report, the Royal Commission must also determine if there are any matters that should be referred to the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Minister responsible for the intelligence and security agencies, or the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security first.

Last modified: