I was out for my constitutional on Friday afternoon in the glorious spring sunshine when I heard the sound of police sirens. I counted five vehicles, going at full noise, racing onto the nor'west motorway before I turned to head for home. I assumed when I got back I'd read what had been the catalyst for such a dramatic response. It was worse than anything I'd imagined.
It was when the Prime Minister said she would be addressing the nation that it was clear the Auckland attack was more than just a random moment of madness. And so it was. The man responsible was a lone wolf terrorist who'd been a person of interest since 2016.
He'd been under 24/7 surveillance which was how police were able to respond so quickly. But not quickly enough. A minute is a very, very long time. Long enough for seven people to be injured, three critically. What's galling is that the Crown had tried to bring terrorism charges against him last year but a High Court judge ruled that under the current legislation, preparing to commit a terrorist act wasn't a terrorist offence. And don't go blaming the judge for being soft. He quite rightly pointed out that it's not for the courts to make laws; that's the job of Parliament.
The Government, the Crown, our intelligence agencies, the police have known for years that our terrorism laws are loose and sloppily written. They were hastily prepared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and were part of a raft of legislation that sat in a pile waiting for review under the previous National government. That review never happened.
In the wake of the Al Noor mosque shootings, the Royal Commission of Inquiry recommended, among other things, that new laws be created that criminalised the planning of a terrorist attack. And the Ardern government acted on that. The prospective terrorism laws were released in April, with the support of all political parties except the Māori Party and the Greens, and just a month ago, the draft legislation went to select committee with the expectation that the gaps in our terrorism laws would be shored up shortly.
All too late for Friday's victims. But hopefully in time to prevent the other people on the Government's watch list from committing a similar attack. When the Prime Minister said in her address to the nation, that she was "gutted", I have no doubt she was. But imagine how much more gutted the intelligence agencies, the courts, the police are. All of the people who have been screaming at successive governments over the past 13 years to fix flawed legislation that would allow them to do their jobs properly and to keep the community safe.
In the meantime, what an incredible act of generosity on the part of the Muslim Association of Canterbury. Within hours of the attack, they had set up and donated to a Give A Little page to help the victims of the attack. They, more than anyone else in the country, know what it is to be targets of twisted ideology. I just hope this is another time in our country's history where we come together to show that love is stronger than any hate.