The Royal Commission was established by Order in Council on 8 April 2019.3 It appointed the Honourable Sir William Young as Chair and set out our Terms of Reference. Jacqui Caine was appointed as a Member of the Royal Commission on 22 May 2019.
The original reporting date of 10 December 2019 was subsequently extended on two occasions until the final reporting date of 26 November 2020. These extensions were necessary because of the sheer volume of material we had to assess and the disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Terms of Reference directed us to inquire into what Public sector agencies knew about the individual’s activities before the terrorist attack, what (if anything) they did with that information, what they could have done to prevent the terrorist attack and what they should do to prevent such terrorist attacks in the future.
As well, we were asked to investigate the individual’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; and
- his connections with people, whether in New Zealand or internationally.
We were directed to make findings as to:
- whether there was any information provided or otherwise available to relevant [Public] sector agencies that could or should have alerted them to the terrorist attack and, if such information was provided or otherwise available, how the agencies responded to any such information, and whether that response was appropriate; and
- the interaction amongst relevant [Public] sector agencies, including whether there was any failure in information sharing between the relevant agencies; and
- whether relevant [Public] sector agencies failed to anticipate or plan for the terrorist attack due to an inappropriate concentration of counter-terrorism resources or priorities on other terrorism threats; and
- whether any relevant [Public] sector agency failed to meet required standards or was otherwise at fault, whether in whole or in part; and
- any other matters relevant to the purpose of the inquiry, to the extent necessary to provide a complete report.
And finally, recommendations were sought on:
- whether there is any improvement to information gathering, sharing, and analysis practices by relevant [Public] sector agencies that could have prevented the terrorist attack, or could prevent such terrorist attacks in the future, including, but not limited to, the timeliness, adequacy, effectiveness, and co-ordination of information disclosure, sharing, or matching between relevant [Public] sector agencies; and
- what changes, if any, should be implemented to improve relevant [Public] sector agency systems, or operational practices, to ensure the prevention of such terrorist attacks in the future; and
- any other matters relevant to the above, to the extent necessary to provide a complete report.
The Terms of Reference directed that certain issues were outside our scope – the guilt or innocence of any individual charged with offences in relation to the terrorist attack, amendments to firearms legislation, activity by entities or organisations outside the Public sector agencies (such as media platforms) and the response to the terrorist attack once it had begun.
We were required to:
- connect with New Zealand’s Muslim communities;
- maintain the confidentiality of information that could be harmful to the public interest if it was released, including information about the operational practices of Public sector agencies (particularly intelligence and security agencies) and information supplied in confidence to the New Zealand government; and
- protect the fair trial rights of the individual charged with offences in relation to the terrorist attack.
The Order in Council defined relevant Public sector agencies as the Government Communications Security Bureau, Immigration New Zealand, New Zealand Customs Service, New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. But the definition in clause 3 also included:
... any other agency whose functions or conduct, in the inquiry’s view, needs to be considered in order to fulfil the inquiry’s terms of reference.
We saw this as including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which has a significant role in the national security system, and the Department of Internal Affairs through its Office of Ethnic Communities, which has a role in social cohesion and embracing diversity programmes.
3. New Zealand Gazette 2019-dl1600