Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain


The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCOI) was instigated by the Prime Minister in response to the attacks on Christchurch Mosques on March 15, 2019.

The RCOI terms of reference were to investigate what State Sector agencies – including New Zealand Police – knew about the individual’s activities before the attack, measures agencies could have taken to prevent the attack, and measures agencies should take to prevent such attacks in the future.

The report, Ko tō tātou kāinga tënei is a comprehensive response to the Royal Commission's Terms of Reference and was released on Tuesday 8 December 2020. It made 44 recommendations covering both national security, and wider social and community matters.

New Zealand Police is the lead agency for eight recommendations.

Government initiatives

The Government’s initial response to the report includes updates on relevant work that was already underway and new initiatives around three key areas: supporting our diverse communities, tackling harmful behaviour and discrimination, and keeping New Zealand safe. Information on each initiative is available on the DPMC website.

Police initiatives in response to the recommendations

Recommendation 12

Develop and promote an accessible reporting system that enables members of the public to easily and safely report concerning behaviours or incidents to a single contact point within government.

Current activity

Work is currently underway to scope the options for the design of the reporting system to ensure the end product meets the needs of the recommendation and is responsive to a spectrum of possible concerns that could be reported via this channel.  

In parallel to the work police are doing to respond the RCOI recommendations police have advanced the improvement of information sharing across agencies. This includes stronger partnerships with key agencies to focus on information sharing to identify and manage risk, stronger management of Persons of Interest and Lead information, and the ability for police to record the incidence of hate speech/hate crime.

Recommendations 19-24

Recommendations 19-24 are all workstreams that come under the Arms Transformation Programme.

Recommendation 19

Direct New Zealand Police (or other relevant entity) to make policies and operational standards and guidance for the firearms licensing system clear and consistent with legislation.

Recommendation 20

Direct New Zealand Police (or other relevant entity) to introduce an electronic system for processing firearms licence applications.

Recommendation 21

Direct New Zealand Police (or other relevant entity) to ensure firearms licensing staff have regular training and undertake periodic reviews of the quality of their work.

Recommendation 22

Direct New Zealand Police (or other relevant entity) to introduce performance indicators that focus on the effective implementation of the firearms licensing system. Key indicators should include:

Regular performance monitoring of firearms licensing staff to ensure national standards are met; and

Public confidence in the firearms licensing system is increased (as measured by New Zealand Police citizens' satisfaction survey reports or similar mechanism).

Recommendation 23

Direct New Zealand Police (or other relevant entity) to require two new processes in the case of applicants who have lived outside of New Zealand for substantial periods of time in the ten years preceding the application:

c.  applicants should be required to produce police or criminal history checks from countries in which they have previously resided; and

d.  firearms vetting officers should interview family members or other close connections in other countries using technology if the applicant does not have near relatives or close associates living in New Zealand.

Recommendation 24

Introduce mandatory reporting of firearms injuries to New Zealand Police by health professionals.

Current activity

Police had already worked to improve processes and practice around firearms licensing ahead of the findings of the Royal Commission. That work included new training and resources, a new quality assurance process, and an extra step in the approval process with a senior constabulary member of staff. Work has continued in this area focusing on the processes for firearms licensing, supporting staff, and working towards a permanent (as opposed to casual) workforce.

People are able to apply for licences and endorsements online and Police is looking into developing this capability further. A Firearms Online Licence Checker for dealers and sellers to validate licences has recently gone live also.

Police has already undertaken considerable work around quality assurance and this work is ongoing and will lead into the development of KPIs for the new firearms business unit. There has been public consultation on Arms regulations which includes considering recommendation 23.

On the mandatory reporting of firearms injuries to Police by health professionals, Police and the Ministry of Health are working through this and the legal requirements for making it mandatory.

Recommendation 42

Direct New Zealand Police to revise the ways in which they record complaints of criminal conduct to capture systematically hate-motivations for offending and train frontline staff in:

  1. Identifying bias indicators so that they can identify potential hate crimes when they perceive that an offence is hate-motivated.
  2. Exploring perceptions of victims and witnesses so that they are in a position to record where an offence is perceived to be hate-motivated; and
  3. Recording such hate-motivations in a way which facilitates the later use of section 9(1)(h) of the Sentencing Act 2002.

Current activity

Police received funding from Cabinet in July 2021 to strengthen its existing ties and partnerships with communities across Aotearoa, and establish Te Raranga, a new programme of work to improve our response to hate crime and hate incidents, and support those who have been affected by it.

Te Raranga will improve internal systems, practice, and processes, improve the knowledge and skills of our staff to identify and record hate crime, and make it easier for victims to recognise and report hate crime.

Te Raranga is a victim-centric approach to hate crime. Over four years Police will develop new resources to make it easier for victims and their families to report hate crime, education support to prevent members of the public carrying out hate crimes, and training for our people to respond to hate crime if it occurs.

Te Raranga will also lead the newly established Te Raranga Advisory Group (TRAG) to strengthen work at the government and agency level. Confirmed TRAG members include NZ Human Rights Commission, Netsafe, Te Tari Taiwhenua | Internal Affairs, Crime Stoppers, and CertNZ.

On 1 January 2021 Police began carrying out quality assurance checks on every report of hate crime made to them to ensure the reports were accurately recorded, and the correct services had been delivered. Between 1 January and 24 June 2021, 1,693 hate crimes were reported to Police. 

Capturing this data will help Police to understand the experiences of individuals and communities, and develop new processes for how to record and manage hate crime in the future.

There is also work underway on He Aranga Ake – a multi-agency preventative approach to identifying persons of concern, to reduce the likelihood of them causing harm associated with violent extremism. He Aranga Ake will approach this through appropriate, coordinated, supported, and effective interventions that are proportionate to the person of concerns’ risk, needs, responsivity, and circumstances. New Zealand Police are leading the development and delivery of the programme.


Police has accepted the findings of the Royal Commission. We engage positively and openly with survivors, families, and communities to ensure any decisions we make are well-informed.

Police Muslim Community Reference Group

This group was formed to advise on the Police RCOI response. They meet regularly with the Police RCOI Governance Group to participate in discussions on the Police-led initiatives.

Related content and updates

Media conference opening remarks by Commissioner Andrew Coster


Thank you Prime Minister,

Firstly I want to acknowledge the affected whānau, survivors, witnesses and 51 people who lost their lives on March 15, 2019. The callous brutality of the attacks that took place that day at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre shocked New Zealanders to the core and brought worldwide condemnation.

We all struggled to make sense of how and why this terrible crime could have happened here.

When the Government instigated the Royal Commission of Inquiry, Police willingly participated.

The Commissioners asked some hard questions and we did our best to answer as honestly and openly as we could. Our intention was, and is, to ensure that if mistakes were made, we would learn from them.

We were also aware that there was much misinformation circulating in the community – including speculation about whether Police and other agencies missed opportunities to stop the attack.

In an exhaustive review of all the information available, the Commission found that that the only information that could or should have alerted us to the attack was the email sent to Parliamentary Service just eight minutes beforehand.

The Commission confirmed there was no failure in information-sharing between the relevant agencies.

However, there were other areas where the Commission found Police wanting.

The report points to failures in Police’s administration of the firearm licensing system.

We accept that we didn’t have coherent and complete guidance material for the processing of applications where the applicant could not provide a near-relative referee able to be interviewed in person.

We accept that we did not put in place a systemic training and review package for firearms staff.

We accept that, in trying to assess whether the individual was fit and proper to hold a firearms licence, we could have done more to assess whether the two referees knew the individual well enough to serve as referees.

We unreservedly apologise that Police’s administration of the Arms Act has not always been at the level the public would reasonably expect. Whilst the Commission finds that this would not have necessarily stopped an attack, we understand that we need demonstrate to the public that we have learnt from this event and I am committed to ensuring that we give this work the priority that it deserves, and the public expects.

I can assure you that we have reflected on the support, processes, and guidance we give our staff working in this area. We have already started work to improve this, which includes new training and resources, a new quality assurance process, and an extra step in the approval process with a senior constabulary member of staff.

The Commission concluded that regulation of semi-automatic firearms was lax, open to exploitation and was gamed by the individual. Police was aware of legislative gaps in relation to semi-automatic firearms and had been working to address them prior to 15 March 2019.

The first legislative changes following the 15 March attacks addressed these loopholes by prohibiting and restricting access to semi-automatic firearms, magazines, and parts.

The Government’s subsequent reform of the firearms legislation has strengthened Police’s ability to ensure the safe use and control of arms in New Zealand.

There are some hard lessons for Police in the Commission’s report, but there are opportunities too: to improve, to be and do better.

Police is mindful of the fact that there has not been a criminal trial in this matter due to the guilty plea of the offender and that the report has only covered the period up to the beginning of the attack.

We’re aware that families of victims have a range of unanswered questions including around Police’s response.

In an attempt to help answer these questions, later today Police will be releasing our review of the response to the Christchurch Mosque attack.  We are also proactively preparing information to release to families of victims outlining what we can tell them about their loved ones. 

We will be running a process under the supervision of the coroner to endeavour to answer to the best of our ability the remaining questions that families may have about their loved ones.

Our vision is for New Zealand to be the safest country. We want our systems and processes to be the best they can be to keep our communities safe.

We have made significant improvements since the events of March 15, however we acknowledge we still have work to do.

Police will now thoroughly consider the report findings and the recommendations, supporting the Government to formulate it’s response.

We will engage positively and openly with victims, families and communities to ensure any decisions we make are well-informed. 

Thank you.