The unprecedented terror attack in Christchurch created a situation no New Zealand government has ever had to face. Senior writer Claire Trevett reveals how the political response unfolded.
DAY ONE: FRIDAY MARCH 15
Jacinda Ardern was on her way to the site of a new school in New Plymouth when the shooting began.
It was sunny and bright in Taranaki. The Prime Minister's day had begun with a surprise visit to students taking part in the climate change protest. She then went to a function to launch a plan to move Taranaki from oil and gas industries on to cleaner energy.
After speaking to media and posing for selfies with onlookers, Ardern got in a van with staff and Justice Minister Andrew Little to head to the site of the planned "green" school.
It was 1.40pm. The shooting had just begun.
Eight minutes earlier, and unbeknown to the Prime Minister, her office – and that of others, including National leader Simon Bridges and some media - had received a manifesto from the gunman. Seven minutes earlier, the gunman had started livestreaming his attack on Facebook.
The call came about 10 minutes after the shooting began. It was Ardern's chief press secretary Andrew Campbell calling Kelly Spring, the press secretary travelling with the Prime Minister that day.
Spring handed her phone over and Campbell delivered the news – agencies had alerted the Prime Minister's Office to a shooting under way at a mosque in Christchurch.
At least three had been killed. Police would have just arrived.
It hit the news websites soon after.
At about the same time, Little got a call from his senior private secretary.
At that point, it was far from clear how bad the situation was. Ardern's van turned around and headed straight to the New Plymouth Police Station.
Ardern was shocked, and quiet as she digested the news, but quickly started making decisions.
By the time they got to the police station, she'd told Little to fill in for her at a civic reception, and at the Womad festival after that.
She had to return to Wellington.
Ardern stayed at the police station for the next 90 minutes as the increasingly grim news rolled in, watching the television and getting updates from her office and police.
Her phone was never far from her ear. She rang Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and others, including Grant Robertson, who was the most senior minister in Wellington. It quickly became clear the initial figure of three casualties was a gross underestimation.
At about 4pm Ardern called Opposition leader Simon Bridges, who had also been briefed by intelligence officials on what was known. He assured her of his support in the days ahead.
Ardern spoke publicly soon after, at 4.20pm from the Devon Hotel in New Plymouth.
She gave a brief statement, barely two minutes long. At times she struggled to contain emotion.
It was, Ardern said, "one of New Zealand's darkest days".
She then answered questions she didn't yet know the answers to. Details were scarce, there were no fatality numbers, one person was in custody but little was known of him.
The decision was made to get the Defence Force to collect Ardern in one of its King Airs rather than wait for a commercial flight.
Other relevant ministers were summoned to Wellington. Police Minister Stuart Nash was in Napier and emerged from a meeting to see missed calls on his phone from Police Commissioner Mike Bush and his own staff. He went straight to the airport and flew to Wellington, without any luggage. He had to buy fresh clothes the next day.
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Little – the Justice Minister, and minister responsible for the intelligence agencies – returned to Wellington early the next morning.
The ODESC (Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination) had already gathered at National Police Headquarters. The committee is a group of government department chief executives, who coordinate their actions in times of emergencies. This time the ODESC included the Police, intelligence agencies, health and civil defence.
It was chaired by Brook Barrington, the head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Barrington had started in the job just two months earlier after serving as chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. But he proved the ideal person to have in charge – a calm head, thorough, and able to identify what issues would arise, and what the ramifications internationally might be.
They moved to the Beehive for Ardern's return at 6pm. Her security detail was boosted, as was Parliament's. Armed police stood outside.
At 6.45pm, Australian PM Scott Morrison addressed media in Australia. He had made contact with Ardern at that point but had not spoken to her directly.
He confirmed he had been advised one of those arrested was Australian and referred to it as an attack "by an extremist . . . violent terrorist".
By the time she spoke again publicly at 7.25pm Ardern was also describing it as a terrorist attack.
New Zealand was reeling, and Ardern said she knew many would be questioning how it could happen here.
"We, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things."
Those words were among the many that Ardern herself had inserted into her statements over that period, words that came to epitomise her response and that of New Zealanders.
Forty were confirmed dead at that point. By the next day that lifted to 49. The next day, 50.
There were more details, although many were later proved incorrect in the confusion.
There were still four people in custody suspected of being connected to the attacks. All but one were later cleared of direct involvement.
There were also reports of explosive devices on two cars – not just one.
Ardern reported the security threat level had been moved from low to high, that one of those arrested was Australian and was not on security watch lists. She also said one of the questions that would be asked was why he was not.
It was then she also said she would be asking Police how he got access to firearms.
She got that answer soon after. At about 8pm, Ardern went into another briefing. It was there she was told by Bush how the man had got his firearms.
It was also at that briefing that Ardern first raised the prospect of gun law reforms.
At about 10pm that night, Nash walked up to her office with a copy of the most recent report Police had prepared on the Arms Act, its loopholes and gaps. It dated back to November last year.
Ardern put it in her bag before she returned to Premier House that night, leaving around midnight.
Clarke and baby Neve were already there – they were still in Wellington as Ardern had planned to attend Wellington's Pride Parade the next day.
DAY TWO: SATURDAY MARCH 16
Ardern's day began with a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump before her first briefing at 8am.
There were numerous messages from world leaders, but Trump was one of just seven Ardern spoke to personally.
She had at least daily conversations with Australia's Scott Morrison, the first on Friday night.
Over those first few days, she also spoke to Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May, the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
After the Trump call, Ardern went into her briefing.
Those were led by Barrington and included Police Commissioner Mike Bush, SIS head Rebecca Kitteridge, Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black, and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.
Each spoke on their area of responsibility. Bush updated on the arrests and investigations, while Bloomfield would provide death and injury numbers, as well as how Christchurch Hospital was coping.
Ardern's acting chief of staff, Raj Nahna, sat in on the briefings, as did Campbell, other senior ministers and Peters' chief of staff Jon Johansson.
Officials and staff had met in advance, getting together at 7am.
At 6.53am, Johansson rang Peters to debrief him on Ardern's desire for gun reforms from the night before.
In the past, NZ First had been opposed to gun reform measures.
This time, Peters advised Johansson to offer his full support.
At her 8am briefing, Ardern told officials she intended to pursue the gun reforms and to start work on them.
She also ordered them to report to Cabinet on Monday on the gunman's actions with a range of potential changes in mind – firearms, border control, information sharing with Australia, and the watch list processes.
Then Ardern went down to the Beehive theatrette to speak to media again.
It was 9.30am. This time, the death toll was at 49. Ardern chronicled the weapons used, some anger in her voice.
Five guns. Two semi-automatics. Two shotguns. A lever-action firearm.
The alleged gunman had a gun licence from November 2017. The first weapon was bought in December that year. All were obtained legally, although modifications had been done.
Then she gave her response to that, listing the times gun reforms had failed in the past.
"I can tell you right now, our gun laws will change. Now is the time for change."
At 11am Ardern left for Christchurch. With her was Green Party co-leader James Shaw and Peters, who had had to leave Whananaki at about 5am to get to Wellington in time.
Bridges had also flown down that morning from Tauranga, missing his sons' joint birthday party.
The Air Force Boeing was used this time, its capacity needed to take the politicians, more police and media. It was called in at late notice, leaving no time for the Air Force to change it over to the VIP seating.
Ardern wore black – the colour of mourning for Muslims. She dressed that way for several days.
By the time she got to the Islamic centre to meet leaders and some of those affected, she had also donned a hijab, black with gold trim, borrowed from a friend in Wellington.
The decision to wear the hijab was Ardern's. She had worked within Muslim communities enough to know it would be respectful.
Ardern's first step was to assure those who had lost family members, especially the breadwinners of the family, that there was long-term support available for them through ACC and the Ministry of Social Development.
She also gave a commitment: "We are here now, but we will be here whenever you need, in the coming days, the coming weeks, the coming months."
Security around Ardern's visit was tight. Media were driven behind her in a van, and were not told where they were going.
Ardern spoke to Islamic leaders first at a refugee centre with media present. But her meetings with the families of those killed at Hagley Park and hospital visits with some of those injured were in private.
Beyond an occasional quiver in her voice during her first press conference in New Plymouth, Ardern had kept her composure. But she later revealed that it was in those meetings with families and those who had been in the attacks that things had been "very emotional".
Back at the Beehive, staff and officials had two days to prepare the material Cabinet would need to consider gun law reform proposals.
With Ardern, Peters and Nash in Christchurch, Robertson was the lead minister, basing himself on the PM's ninth-floor office for much of that weekend, coordinating the overall response as well as helping on gun law proposals.
Staff from Robertson's and Nash's offices were called in to help.
It was long, hard, pressure-cooker work. Parliament's cafe was closed and there was little time to go out to get food. Sustenance was eventually provided by Robertson in the form of boxes of Sampler biscuits, chocolate, plums and apricots.
Nahna, Ardern's acting chief of staff, was a key figure over this period. He was last to leave that night, at 2am.
They were not starting from zero – Nash had already proposed reviewing the Arms Act and the Police had long called for stricter regulation, so some material and analysis was already on hand.
Police officials and advisers from Nash's office worked on getting it into a form for Cabinet to consider specific proposals.
One key question was separating out what could be done quickly, and what could be left for later. An immediate ban on the types of guns used in the attack was the most urgent step Ardern wanted – and could be done quickly. Other aspects, such as a register, were more complicated.
Ardern arrived back in Wellington from Christchurch at about 7pm that night.
Later that night, a provisional list of "missing" people was released to families in Christchurch who were waiting to hear whether loved ones were in hospital or had been killed.
DAY THREE: SUNDAY MARCH 17
Ardern's first stop was a visit to the Islamic Centre in the Wellington suburb of Kilbirnie. Again she wore the hijab.
A photo taken of her consoling another woman there became one of the enduring images of Ardern's response and was displayed on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Many of Ardern's words were also getting international coverage.
After briefings, Ardern and chief press secretary Andrew Campbell would discuss what she should say at the next press conference.
Campbell then returned to the wider press team – Ardern has four press secretaries, and others were drafted in to help – and they would start working on a statement for the Prime Minister to deliver.
The beginnings of the statements were heavily scripted because they included factual updates on the gunman, security, support, and the victims. Mistakes could not be made, and clear language was needed.
Much of this was prepared by staff but, almost without exception, the words that got the most resonance were those drafted by Ardern herself. She has always been hands-on when it comes to writing her speeches and this was no exception.
Phrases such as "you are us", of the migrants and refugees killed in the attacks, and her direct message to the gunman, "You may have chosen us - we utterly reject and condemn you", were all Ardern's.
So too was her later determination never to utter the name of the gunman.
Staff would free her up for about half an hour before each media appearance or speech to let her rewrite and add to the prepared statements.
On that first weekend, she had to use their computers to do so.
Ardern rarely used her own laptop, as it had not had an upgrade it needed. So Ardern would sit at a press secretary's desk and use their computer instead.
This sometimes gave visitors a surprise. One person went into the press secretaries' office and started talking to the back of Kelly Spring's head, only for the Prime Minister to turn around instead. The pair have similar hairstyles.
Ardern held just one press conference that day, outlining support for those affected.
Much of the day was spent preparing for Cabinet the next day. Ardern had by now spoken to Simon Bridges about gun law reforms and secured an indication of support.
As well as the gun reforms, plans were starting for a national service and a broader inquiry into the attack.
Frustration was also growing about the delays in action by the likes of Facebook in deleting videos of the gunman's livestream from their platforms. Australia's Scott Morrison was also to take a tough line on this in the days ahead.
Ardern had urged people not to share the video from the first day and said the Government had been given an assurance by social media platforms on which the video was available that it was being removed. Facebook eventually removed 1.5 million copies of it. Twitter got rid of 20,000 tweets – both with the video and hate speech tweets. Copies remained on some platforms as late as this week.
Ardern had also had a message of condolence from Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, who had met Ardern and written the blurb when Ardern was included in Time's 100 most influential women list in 2018.
But three days in, Ardern said it was clear harder questions needed to be asked and answered.
DAY FOUR: MONDAY MARCH 18
It was delivery day. Cabinet was meeting – and in a rare move, was enlarged to allow the Green Party ministers to sit in.
On the agenda was a briefing by the same agencies that had briefed Ardern so many times already, on the gunman, why he was not on a watch list, what they would do about it.
The details of the gun reforms were still a work in progress, but Cabinet signed off on reforms. Cabinet papers show they "agreed in principle to take a number of steps to significantly reduce access to semi-automatic firearms, parts, magazines and ammunition".
They also authorised a small group of ministers to decide on the extent and details of those reforms. They were Ardern, Peters, Robertson, Nash, Little and Ron Mark, the Minister of Defence.
They also agreed to a comprehensive inquiry into the attacks, from the gunman's travels and connections to whether the intelligence agencies had missed anything that should have alerted them to him.
At about 5pm, Ardern arrived back in the Beehive theatrette for her post-Cabinet press conference. Peters was alongside her. This was ostensibly in case media wanted to ask him about his upcoming visit to Turkey or any foreign relations aspects.
But it was also a symbolic show of unity on gun reforms – NZ First had been seen as most likely to baulk at sweeping gun reforms. Peters answered that question: "The reality is that after 1pm on 15 March our world changed forever, and so will some of our laws."
Ardern announced gun law reforms would go ahead. She noted Australia had taken 12 days after the Port Arthur massacre to decide on gun law reforms.
"We have taken 72 hours."