Group of Friends of Victims of Terrorism Meeting, United Nations, New York

  • Hon Aupito William Sio
Pacific Peoples

It is a privilege to be here today at the inaugural ministerial meeting of the Group of Friends of the Victims of Terrorism. And I’d like to convey our warm thanks to the governments of Afghanistan and Spain for their leadership on this important issue.  

The 15th of March 2019 is forever etched into the psyche of our peoples. New Zealand experienced its worst ever terrorist attack in which 51 individuals were killed – men, women and children – and dozens more injured in attacks against our Muslim community when they were worshipping in two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

In the wake of the attacks, the New Zealand Government’s core focus was on responding to the immediate and enduring needs of the victims, their families, and New Zealand’s Muslim communities. 

New Zealand’s ability to support the victims was shaped by our experiences of the lessons learned from other, non-terrorism-related disasters, including the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. 

The strong relationships between central and local government as well as the extensive suite of social services including in the physical health, mental health, and wellbeing spheres, allowed us to provide wraparound care for the victims and their families and communities. 

This required an all-of-government effort, with coordination of a wide range of central government agencies and non-government organisations to ensure that relevant and appropriate national and local level services were identified and made available to victims. 

Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, all political parties were united in our response.  Financial support and national health resources were mobilised.  Free doctor visits were provided to the surviving victims and their families. 

We did our best to rally our entire nation to provide support during the grieving process.  Psychological support was delivered nationwide while Ministry of Education Traumatic Incident Teams visited schools and learning centres following the attacks, and additional support was offered to places with staff or students killed in the attacks. The New Zealand Police also deployed reassurance patrols throughout the region and supported Muslims at their places of worship across the country. 

Our government also immediately passed new legislation banning military-style, semiautomatic and assault rifles, the very weapons used by the terrorist.

Friends, learning from our own tragic experience in Christchurch, New Zealand is strongly supportive of initiatives to strengthen the sharing of best practices and lessons learned related to the protection of, and assistance to, victims of terrorism. 

We all have things to share and to learn from each other, from government, national and regional institutions, civil society organisations and of course the victims and their families. 

New Zealand welcomes the opportunity offered by this Group of Friends to exchange our ideas, make progress, and give a voice to the victims of terrorism.  The Group has important work before it; not only to protect the human rights of victims and advocate for their needs but also to contribute to the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism. 

New Zealand stands ready to play our part and we look forward to working with you all in doing so. 

And finally I just want to thank you all for your messages of support and condolences to New Zealand. 

Thank you.