Terrorists must, because of their inherent weakness, select soft targets. Few may be softer than a country that likes to think it is closeted by its isolation. An air of complacency prevails even though examples of terrorism, notably the Bali bombings and last year's Sydney hostage crisis, have taken place very close to home.
This makes New Zealand something of a "sitting duck", according to Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor, an expert in the field. Her warning should be taken seriously, especially as it echoes the concerns of this country's Security Intelligence Service.
Rebecca Kitteridge, the SIS head, said this week that the threat of a terrorist attack had increased over the past year. There are several reasons.
The troops now deploying to Iraq in a joint training mission with Australia raise the threat of retaliation. Another factor is the increased use of social media to encourage people to mount attacks in their own countries. As in Sydney, an individual can cause havoc. A third strand is the singling out of targets in the Western world. The Somali-based Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab has called for attacks on shopping malls,specifically those owned by Westfield.
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That has clear implications for this country. Westfield has nine centres here. An attack on one of these is conceivable if only because security in countries like Britain and the United States is much tighter.
This means New Zealanders can expect ramped-up security measures as part of Westfield's global response. As its competitors follow suit, shoppers will see more CCTV or facial recognition software inside malls and in carparks. Similar developments, including bag-checking machines, are likely to occur in other areas where people congregate, such as sporting and entertainment venues. SkyCity, another soft target, has indicated it is testing several facial recognition systems.
Added protection aside, there is nothing to like about this new level of intrusiveness. At best, it will be an inconvenience. At worst, if taken to unjustified extremes, it may threaten reasonable expectations of privacy. But, as Sullivan-Taylor suggests, this country needs to demonstrate a greater awareness of the risk of terrorism and the requirement for contingencies. Part of the latter, she says, must be more co-operation between the businesses in a mall so that a tiny cafe, for example, does not become the weak link in the defensive chain.
That may not come easily for some business owners. But in this, as in all aspects of confronting the heightened terrorism threat, the right balance will have to be struck. Businesses must accept a new reality, as must all New Zealanders.