White supremacy tops list of NZ threats

Ben McKayAAP
The main threat comes from "identity-motivated" attackers such as the Christchurch terrorist.
Camera IconThe main threat comes from "identity-motivated" attackers such as the Christchurch terrorist. Credit: AP

A counter-extremism conference in Christchurch has heard fresh terrorism attacks remain a realistic possibility in New Zealand, two years after the Christchurch Mosques massacre.

The "He Whenua Taurikura" hui, which translates to the "A Country At Peace" gathering, is being staged annually as a recommendation of the post-Christchurch terror Royal Commission.

A suite of experts, intelligence and police chiefs gathered for the two-day conference beginning Tuesday.

All stressed the need for community cohesion as a primary defence to future attacks.

Rebecca Kitteridge, New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) Director General, said the primary threat came from "identity-motivated" and particularly white supremacists, akin to the March 15 terrorist, Australian man Brenton Tarrant.

Behind the threat of white supremacists, lie faith-motivated and politically motivated actors.

Ms Kitteridge said a fresh attack remained a "realistic possibility".

"We need to confront these realities without sensationalising them," Ms Kitteridge said.

"If a terrorist attack were to be committed in New Zealand in the next 12 months, we think it would most likely be carried out by an extremist lone actor, without any detectable forewarning."

Cameron Bayly, the Chief Counter-Terrorism Adviser at NZ police, said community members prevented two further possible attacks around the time of the 2019 massacre.

"In one instance (there were) highly detailed plans, and a state of intention to undertake a school shooting," Mr Bayly said.

"He was an avid consumer of extremist material.

"The difference between those cases and March 15 is one relatively vague report from the community."

Academic Chris Wilson at the University of Auckland said radicalisation was primarily taking place on the internet.

"The environment is more dangerous now than it was in early 2019 ... and the greatest risk comes from individuals who are operating online and only communicating with people online," Dr Wilson said.

Individuals with different streams of bigotry - including anti-Maori, misogyny or Islamophobic views - are converging online.

"There's a cross fertilisation of ideas, identification of common enemies and a common escalatory pathway to violence in a way that we've never seen before," Dr Wilson added.

"However, offline group interaction often dampens radicalisation."

The Royal Commission into New Zealand's worst modern day mass shooting made 44 recommendations, all of which have been accepted by Jacinda Ardern's government.

Ms Ardern said New Zealand's counter-terrorism strategy began with eliminating "racism and discrimination based on ethnicity or religion".

"Some might ask, what does that have to do with counter terrorism strategies? My answer is everything," she said.

Ms Ardern quoted the Norweigan Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who said "you don't attack what you feel you belong to", arguing for increased social cohesion.

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