Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern briefs the Media
Christchurch, March 16, 2019
The following is a Statement issued by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the Media in Christchurch at 4 pm today.
Many of you will know that this morning, a contingent of community leaders met together at a refugee centre in Christchurch.
It was an important opportunity for us to share the grief of New Zealanders directly with those who have experienced so much loss.
Many of you will have been there, and will know that the discussion firstly acknowledged that this is not the New Zealand that any of us know.
Questions turned to issues of security. The (Police) Commissioner has advised that security from the Police will continue at Mosques throughout New Zealand until it is deemed that there is no longer a threat.
Beyond that, it will be important that police, communities and central government continue to stay in dialogue and ensure that people feel safe and secure.
We also visited those who have congregated at Hagley College. Many there are the direct friends and family members of those who have lost their lives.
There the concern focuses predominantly on the burial focus and ensuring that that is kept in line with custom. Police are continuing to liaise directly with family members and are trying to do all they can to meet the expectations of all who are there this afternoon.
In terms of a further update on details we have to hand, 39 people remain in hospital and 11 in ICU. Those injured range from young children to the elderly. They include men, women and children and they were among those who had been both killed and injured.
Update on the offender
I will give a quick update on the offender who has been arrested and charged.
I want to acknowledge firstly that the police responded immediately to the call that they received relating to the attack.
The individual charged was in custody 36 minutes from receiving the first call.
The offender was mobile. There were two other firearms in the vehicle the offender was in and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack.
The 28-year-old male has been charged and remanded in custody to appear in the High Court on the April 5, 2019.
As the Commissioner has said, the man is currently facing one count of murder but obviously there will be further charges laid.
Police are working to build a picture of this tragic event, a complex and comprehensive investigation is under way.
The Police Commissioner has already said he’ll look to provide further details to you around that investigation tomorrow. That update will include what has happened to the two individuals you’re aware of that were arrested, that I spoke about earlier today.
I know that the burial of victims is a key concern for members of the community.
Ethnic Liaison Officers
Deputy (Police) Commissioner of Maori and Ethnic Services Wally Haumaha has travelled to Christchurch. He was there with us at Hagley College, alongside 15 additional Ethnic Liaison Officers who are working to support the community.
These specialists will work alongside local staff to support families there. They are assisting to repatriate them with their loved ones in a way that is consistent with the Muslim faith, taking into account these unprecedented circumstances and the obligations to the Coroner.
Education Ministry support
I want to also advise that the Ministry of Education is continuing to support Christchurch schools and learning centres. Our Ministry trauma team was mobilised yesterday and further resources are being considered as necessary.
Communications will go out today to principals and early learning centre leaders in Christchurch about how to access support.
Principals and early learning leaders in all other regions will receive advice tomorrow.
The Ministry is preparing communication and resources that will also be live on their website. And trauma teams in all regions are ready to mobilise.
I want to also acknowledge that Christchurch and Canterbury schools already have embedded within them a team of mental health and support workers under the Mana Ake Programme.
That was rolled out in response to the trauma attached to the earthquakes and the impact it’s had on the community. So that does mean that our schools in this region already have extra levels of support that not every school would usually have.