PM statement on Christchurch shooting – 4pm 17 March

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister

Good afternoon.  

Before I move to an operational update, I want to acknowledge that this is the first time I have spoken with you since a provisional list of missing people was released to families late last night. This is not a formal list, and will not be until formal identification has been completed.  

I’ve had contact with those directly on the ground and know that providing as much information as we can is incredibly important. But I also know the receipt of that provisional list late last night will be devastating. In amongst all of the ongoing issues, the operation to bring to justice the person involved, to secure the safety of our communities, lies a list of people who were potentially the victims of this terrorist attack. 

They were loved ones and they were New Zealanders.  

Many of you will know that today I went to Kilbirnie Mosque to lay flowers with Wellington Mayor Justin Lester and to meet with Islamic community leaders. 

Their message was one of gratitude for the outpouring of love that they had experienced from the people of Wellington. And an acknowledgement of the grief that the community feels. 

As the Police Commissioner confirmed this morning: 

50 people have been killed and 34 people remain in Christchurch Hospital – 12 of them in the intensive care unit in critical condition.  

A four-year-old girl remains in a critical condition at Starship Hospital in Auckland. 

I can confirm that the bodies of those who have died are beginning to be returned to their families from this evening. It is likely, however, to be a small number to begin with. 

It is the expectation that all bodies will be returned to families by Wednesday. 

To help ensure this happens as quickly as possible, we are receiving support from six Disaster Victim Identification staff from Australia.

The 28-year-old man charged with murder has been remanded in custody until April 5th and police say he will face further charges. 

He is being held in a specialist security facility.  

Police have confirmed that there is no indication that two other people arrested on Friday were connected with the attacks. 

They have however confirmed that another person has been taken into custody as a result of evidence collected during the investigation, but there is no information to suggest that person is linked to the attacks. As the Police Commissioner has said, this is tangential to the attack on Friday. 

Public safety remains the top priority for the Police – both in Christchurch and across the country. 

The Police Commissioner will be issuing further advice as people look to return to work and school tomorrow. Needless to say there will be an increased police presence in Christchurch tomorrow to ensure public safety. 

There are an additional 120 police staff are in Christchurch.  

When it comes to mosques, during opening hours and while mosques are in active use, there will be a police presence outside. While they are closed the Police will remain in the vicinity. This will continue to be assessed while the police investigation continues.  

We know these events have been traumatic for the community, but particularly for young people.  

Today, local Ministry of Education staff met with senior staff at Hagley Community College and Burnside Primary School to provide support and resources. A team will be at Cashmere High School in the morning. 

The Ministry is also gathering information to assess immediate trauma support needs at schools and early learning centres across the city. Support is already being provided to some schools and this will be expanded tomorrow morning. 

The Christchurch office is responding to calls as they come in and a team of 200 staff is being mobilised, with specialist staff from other regions on site or on their way. 

For the rest of the country, all schools and early learning centres have now received communications advising them of available support. 

All regions have put Traumatic Incident trained staff on standby to provide support tomorrow. 

The Ministry is also working closely with the Police and Red Cross to support the refugee community. 

I also want to acknowledge in terms of wider advice for instance via parents who may wish to seek advice on communicating with their children, the Ministry of Health is making advice publicly available on their website. 

I also reinforce the 1737 number remains open for text or phone-calls for anyone who may wish to seek further support, particularly mental health support at this time.  

It is open and available to anyone and I understand they are experiencing increased contact. 

The National Management Crisis Centre was set up in Wellington yesterday with staff on the ground in Christchurch. 

This will ensure all agencies are working closely together to ensure the needs of victims and their families are being met.  

It will work alongside the National Security System to ensure we have a comprehensive and well-coordinated response. 

ACC is putting more staff on the ground in Christchurch, working alongside the Ministry of Social Development at the community hub at Hagley.  

For ACC – as I’ve said before immigration status is not a factor – it is based on the event happening here in New Zealand.   

In an event such as this – murder or manslaughter – the family is eligible for a funeral grant of around $10,000. 

There are also one-off payments for the deceased’s partner, children and dependents, ongoing assistance provisions for things like childcare and of course compensation for the loss of income.  

MSD is providing standard forms of financial assistance also, such as helping with immediate needs and things like one-off grants for food payments. It will also be working with individuals and families to consider ongoing needs, such as benefit support. 

In terms of the weeks ahead, for the Government and also Parliament, Cabinet will meet tomorrow. I will provide updates from this at my usual Post-Cabinet Press Conference. 

As I’ve already indicated, it’s my intention we will have an agency briefing for Cabinet and we will have policy discussions around issues like gun policy. 

Members of Parliament will pay tribute in the House on Tuesday. Once the appropriate statements have been given, we will adjourn for the day.  

Communities are paying their respects and expressing their grief and support in a number of ways throughout New Zealand. 

Options and the appropriate timing for national commemorative services are being considered actively now and I will announce more about that when we are in a position to confirm arrangements. 

I can confirm that we will open condolence books at Parliament tomorrow as well as at the National Library, further details will come on that for media to attend. 

Again I want to pass on my deepest gratitude and thanks – and on behalf of the whole country – to the police, the first responders, the hospital staff who I met yesterday and to the teachers, many of whom kept their students in lockdown on Friday and who will be dealing with the fallout from that for a long time to come.