Parliament will soon consider fixing a 19-year flaw in our terrorism laws - but will it make us any safer?
The sequel to the attack in New Lynn will be changes to our anti-terrorism law, but experts say it takes more than legal boundaries to keep danger away from our communities.
The proposed change is already progressing through Parliament, fixing a long-broken section of the law that - among other updates - makes it possible to prosecute someone for planning a terror attack.
It's a change that goes back to the New Lynn attacker, who was subject to a failed prosecution under the broken law.
The latest extension of state intrusion comes after a decade of law changes that have given greater powers to our security services. It's been an evolution of legal encroachment on civil liberties, smoothed with - for our core intelligence agencies - greater checks on their powers and increased oversight.
But does it make New Zealand any safer?
In interviews at the time the New Lynn attacker was facing court, intelligence analyst Dr Paul Buchanan scoffs at the idea. In the view of Buchanan - a former Pentagon intelligence adviser who produces intelligence analysis through 36th Parallel Assessments - there's enough in the Crimes Act to deal with those who would cause the sort of harm terrorists might wish.
"Criminal laws, if used judiciously, are enough to deal with terrorism-related crimes. If you focus on the crime, you diminish [the terror-inducing act]," says Buchanan, who is part of a working group in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet working to make the Royal Commission's recommendations reality.
Prosecute the small crimes, he says, and keep watch. If the person continues to offend, prosecute again. It may not have the cachet of a "terrorism" charge, or the one-shot long sentence, but it deprives the offender of the label of "terrorist", which only serves to further their cause.
"We're now creating new legislation to cover eventualities that may never come to pass that basically involve criminal conspiracy."
For those who enact those laws - our politicians - there is a benefit to using the stamp of "terrorism". Citizens who see attacks such as September 11, or the Bali Bombing, suffer a natural anxious response.
They want to see "someone" do "something" and look to Parliament to take steps to protect the public.
Passing new laws, says Buchanan, is an easy way to deal with public anxiety without actually solving the underlying problem.
The Royal Commission report into the Christchurch attack of March 15 2019 showed that our ability to manage that problem was poor. It revealed an approach to counter-terrorism that was beyond weak and intelligence agencies rebuilding from a derelict state that had lain secret for years.
The rot went to the top, with the Royal Commission saying it had been told Prime Ministers - as those in charge of the intelligence agencies until 2014 - withheld funding that could have built that capability, especially when their own ministers were pushing budget bids.
There's a "push-me pull-you" to combating terrorism. On one side, there is the active intelligence gathering aimed at identifying and defeating those intent of committing acts of terrorism.
It was this "counter-terrorism" that the Royal Commission identified as under-developed from a national structural, perspective, even as its component parts - police, intelligence agencies and others - were run down, struggling for effectiveness and lacking clarity around emerging threats.
In mid-214, the NZ Security Intelligence Service had only 225 staff with as many as half working on security vetting. There were just 4.5 full time staff - including a manager - working on terrorism inquiries.
There was no over-arching strategy for counter-terrorism prior to the March 15 attack, despite Cabinet asking in 2015 (14 years after September 11) for "the development and release of a public counter-terrorism strategy and public engagement plan".
It was during this period significant effort went into rebuilding the intelligence agencies. NZSIS staff numbers grew to 367 by mid-2020. The recruitment drive grew numbers but it came too late - by the time of the March 15 attack, most of its investigators had less than one year's experience.
The fault of that wasn't all on officials. The Royal Commission found the "proposed public-facing counter-terrorism strategy" was chief among those "tangible" outcomes "affected by political considerations".
The "pull-you" is the Holy Grail of combating terrorism - "social cohesion". Stopping terrorists is like trying to catch raindrops - one will eventually get through. Social cohesion is about stopping the rain.
Terrorism is committed by those at the extremes of our society. Our society - like most Western democracies - is one which has changed significantly in recent decades, with some citizens and groups becoming isolated at its fringes.
In the past 30 years, the Royal Commission observed, New Zealand's diversity has "increased significantly" leading to it being described as a "super-diverse", meaning there is "a substantial increase in the diversity of ethnic, minority and immigrant groups in a city or country".
Politicians had shied away from talking of social cohesion with it commonly - and incorrectly - being seen as assimilation. Rather, it's about people feeling a sense of belonging with trust in others and a respect for laws and rights, inclusion through equality of opportunity, participation through involvement in community and civic life, valuing diversity and having respect for differences, and confidence of public institutions.
The Royal Commission said: "Social cohesion has direct benefits including people leading happy, rewarding and participatory lives, with increased productivity. Importantly, it also means that people are less likely to become radicalised towards extremist and violent behaviours, including terrorism."
When it came to measuring how effective successive governments had been in enabling social cohesion, the finding was as critical as that levelled at New Zealand's counter-terrorism efforts.
"Before 15 March 2019, there was no leadership and coordination of New Zealand's approach to building social cohesion or social inclusion at either the ministerial or public sector agency level," the Royal Commission's report said.
The failures were led from the top - "In New Zealand, prime ministers and ministers rarely publicly discuss social cohesion and diversity issues" - and flowed down through the public service.
As with counter-terrorism, there was no cross-government strategy driving government efforts. There was policy work as early as 2005 that had "limited influence". In 2015, after the United Nations pushed social cohesion as a means to defeat extremism, a 2015 Cabinet paper agreed to a policy programme led by the Office of Ethnic Affairs.
The office was in a poor position to implement the programme. It had emerged from a failed restructure in 2014 to undergo a new restructure in 2016. Its wider budget bids were rejected by government until after the attacks, and the policy programme, also, received insufficient financial support.
In 2017, pressure from Muslim communities beset by bullying and discrimination led to a new working group and a pilot project in Waikato (not Auckland, where need was greatest).
Even as the governance group that set it up was shelved, the pilot project went ahead and produced a range of recommendations that were still to be implemented by the time of the March 15 attacks.
In the wake of the attacks, funding and support previously absent was poured into building a framework that would - it was hoped - promote social cohesion.
Public discussion is critical, said the Royal Commission, as is leadership. "It is difficult to see how such a discussion will occur if not led by ministers initially."
Is it all enough? Buchanan says no. In his view, there is a need for reform that challenges the very structure of our security agencies.
He would see the domestic espionage and counter-terrorism functions taken from the NZSIS and placed with police. The existing structure, as noted in a 2009 review of the intelligence community, was modelled on off-shore entities decades ago, and then grew like "Topsy".
"We have a lot of duplication and overlap of functions," he says. It wouldn't mean the NZSIS could operate in New Zealand, or assist police, but it would allow it to focus on the challenging growth areas of counter-espionage and foreign intelligence gathering.
Doing so would streamline responsibility, rather than the existing model which has counter-terrorism roles spread across government. And it would allow police to focus on the crimes that constitute terrorism, rather than the crime of terrorism.
Maybe it's too hard, he says. There's many other pieces of work needed to be done before New Zealand is safe and reform on this scale is huge.
Even without restructuring our intelligence community, there's an enormous work programme ahead and it will require significant political will to achieve.
NZSIS director-general Rebecca Kitteridge's Arotake Review - a response to the Royal Commission - says it may now be time for the agency and government to be more transparent about national security and to engage in a wider public debate on the issue.
As much as the NZSIS budget and staffing has increased, "to be effective it will need to increasingly expand understanding and support for its role".
"A failure to do so will likely leave it isolated. NZSIS must leverage others resources and reach in New Zealand to assist it to perform its role. A key enabler in NZSIS generating this support will be a wider public understanding and appreciation of its role."
The support of government would be needed for that to succeed, offering politicians the unpalatable prospect of talking to - and likely unsettling - the public about all things national security
An even more difficult conversation is that on social inclusion. It's an issue the Royal Commission notes politicians have avoided in the past. Discussions in the past about New Zealand accommodating immigrants have invited political opportunism.
It's a discussion that is becoming easier, says Professor Paul Spoonley, of Massey University, again in an interview conducted when the New Lynn attacker was before the courts. He, too, is working with DPMC on the Royal Commission recommendations.
"If you look at elections in New Zealand, increasingly they will be decided by the big cities and those cities are 'super diverse'. Our constituencies will become more diverse and will expect our politicians to reflect that diversity."
Watch this space, he says, and use these three markers to judge success. On July 1, the new Ministry for Ethnic Communities was established.
Watch for leadership, both public service and political. Watch for delivery - how do you bring social cohesion into our communities without exacerbating anxieties about immigration and cultural diversity.
Finally, ask how we measure success. New Zealand is great at having plans and finding new ways forward but not so great at finding ways against which leadership and delivery can be judged.
We don't yet have a measure for success but we know what failure looks like. It looks like March 15. It looks like New Lynn.