The already-delayed and much-anticipated sentencing of the March 15 mosque gunman will proceed in Christchurch as planned under Covid-19 alert level 2, court officials say.
The sentencing of convicted killer, Australian national Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, is scheduled to begin on August 24 and take three days or more.
More than 60 survivors and family members of the 51 Muslims killed during Friday prayer at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 last year are expected to give emotional victim impact statements during the hearing.
The 17-month wait for justice has weighed heavily on the Christchurch Muslim community, including many victims and family members who are overseas and cut off by the Covid-19 border closures.
A total of 53 people are already in managed isolation at New Zealand's border facilities, having arrived from across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Australia and other countries, so they can attend the sentencing in person.
Tarrant had entered guilty pleas to all 51 murder charges at a hastily-arranged High Court hearing in Christchurch on March 26 - the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown.
Along with the murders, the gunman has been convicted on all charges, including 40 counts of attempted murder relating to the two attacks at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15 last year - and pleaded guilty to one charge of engaging in a terrorist act laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.
This week's shock news of coronavirus community transmission which moved Auckland to alert level 3, and the rest of New Zealand including Christchurch into alert level 2, ending a 102-day streak at alert level 1, has cast doubt over whether the gunman's sentencing can go ahead.
However today, the Ministry of Justice told media: "At alert level 2 the sentencing on 24 August will proceed as planned."
"The court and the Ministry of Justice are currently working through what adaptations may be needed under alert level 2. This information will be communicated first to victims," the media update says.
Information around any additional measures "that may be needed if the sentencing occurs under a heightened Covid-19 alert level" will be released on Monday.
Any victims unable to travel to Christchurch will be able to watch the hearing via a secure livestream link.
The gunman sacked his lawyers last month and vowed to represent himself at the hearing, which will include the reading for the first time of the Crown's summary of what happened inside the two mosques that day.