Police Minister Stuart Nash said the terror threat level remained at medium, with the police response the “largest ever criminal investigation” in New Zealand history.
A Wellington convert who describes himself as “probably the most radical Muslim” in the city says he is happy to co-operate with police and understands their concern.
The man, in his 30s, said he was probably on a top secret list, obtained by Stuff, that names some of more than 100 people police are monitoring since the March 15 attack.
The list, created as part of Operation Whakahaumanu, includes white supremacists, Muslim converts and “disaffected” people with firearm licences. Some of the people have come to police attention due to social media posts. Stuff has chosen not to name anyone on the list or contact them for security reasons.
The Wellington man said he was initially very angry after the shootings and had posted online:
“First F— the NZ Government for treating me and the bros like terrorists and while they let the real one kill. Second we got guns too and we will defend ourselves.”
“But I soon calmed down…then I started trying to calm the situation and made sure Muslims knew that there was no retaliation allowed in Islam in this instant. And we should do practical things to help etc. We accept that because of world events and now local ones that the police must do due diligence.”
A friend in the police had invited him for a chat and someone from the National Security Investigation Team had attended. The man said he realised he ticked a few of the boxes around potential threats and the chat was friendly.
“I told him I’m probably the most radical Muslim in Wellington and he had nothing to worry about. Our track record is pretty good in NZ. We laughed and promised to meet again.”
Police Minister Stuart Nash said he could not comment on the list but said the terror threat level remained at medium, with the police response the “largest ever criminal investigation” in New Zealand history.
“Keeping communities safe remains our number one priority. Police also remain routinely armed in some areas due to specific threats or safety concerns. The public will notice a heightened police presence and are also encouraged to remain vigilant and to be aware of their personal safety.”
National leader Simon Bridges said he was “pleased” to see police were monitoring a number of people following the attacks.
“The upcoming Royal Commission of Inquiry needs to establish whether security and intelligence agencies need greater powers,” he said.
Chairman of the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties Thomas Beagle said he had “strong concerns” about government surveillance of people.
“What we would expect is that if police were [monitoring] people that they actually proved the reason they need to do it to the appropriate authorities and got the appropriate warrants,” he said.
“Our main criteria is that we expect there to be the appropriate checks and balances and that there’s got to be more than just a political view for there to be any form of government surveillance.”
Police declined to say how many warrants had been issued to monitor people since March 15.
Police deputy commissioner Mike Clement said earlier Operation Whakahaumanu, a nationwide operation co-ordinated through the Police National Headquarters in Wellington, was designed to reassure New Zealanders.
This included raising awareness through increased visibility on the streets, and visits to thousands of schools, religious places, businesses and community centres.
Since March 15, New Zealanders had been asked to be “particularly vigilant” and report any concerns to police so a proper assessment could be made, Clement said.
“While the number of reports has increased since the Christchurch attack, fundamental to being safe and feeling safe is the willingness of people to report behaviours that concern them.”
Anyone with information of concern can contact their local police station or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.