On March 15 a lone gunman shocked New Zealand by shooting dead 51 people in two Christchurch mosques. His crime led to sweeping calls for action but six months later, what if anything has changed? Five Herald journalists who covered the original massacre and its aftermath - Jared Savage, David Fisher, Chris Keall, Kurt Bayer and Audrey Young - analyse where we stand now.
'Our gun laws will change'
For years, there have been warnings about New Zealand's lax gun laws.
Every attempt to tighten them, as recently as 2017, was stymied. Every time the political momentum petered out.
This led to a loophole where anyone with a basic A-category licence could purchase a semi-automatic, such as an AR-15, and easily upgrade the firearm into a more dangerous Military Style Semi-Automatic (MSSA) weapon.
Anyone, including the Christchurch shooter who allegedly killed 51 innocent people and wounded nearly as many.
Less than 24 hours after the March 15 atrocity, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made it clear the time for tinkering was over.
"As soon as New Zealanders hear this person was legally able to acquire those weapons and carry out this event, that will raise enormous questions with our gun laws," Ardern said.
"I can tell you one thing right now...Our gun laws will change."
Within a week, the Government moved to ban all semi-automatic firearms except for certain .22 rifles and shotguns; the tools of the trade for pest control by farmers and recreational hunters.
The new law was supported by all political parties except the sole vote of Act.
An amnesty was offered to firearms owners who now found themselves holding illegal weapons.
There have been dozens of "collection events" up and down the country, where guns are handed to the police and destroyed.
Owners are then financially compensated in the buy-back scheme. More than $200 million has been set aside. So far, 17,354 guns have been surrendered.
Now, the Government now wants a second phase of wider gun law reform.
The proposed changes include a national gun register (no one has any idea how many guns exist in New Zealand, or who owns them) and new grounds for police to revoke licenses or confiscate firearms.
And while the ban on semi-automatic firearms was widely accepted by the public and most politicians, this second step could face greater opposition from the vocal gun lobbyists and the National Party.
- Jared Savage
Our spies have forecast greater reach into the databases of other government agencies following on from the March 15 attacks.
There also appears to be an acknowledgement of greater efforts to understand and counter far-right extremism.
The expectations come in a report to Andrew Little, the minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service and Government Communications and Security Bureau.
The report is an update on the agencies' Strategic Capability and Resourcing Review, which is a "brick by brick" rebuilding of our intelligence capabilities which started in 2016, fuelled by $180 million of fresh funding.
This was boosted by another $50m in this year's budget.
New Zealand's threat level is currently at "medium", where it was set in April after being classified as "high" in the month following the attack which left 51 people dead and 49 wounded.
Before the attack, it had been considered New Zealand faced a "low" threat, meaning an attack was "possible but not expected". This threat level was boosted from "very low" at the end of 2014.
The report to Little, almost three months after the attack, said: "The unprecedented terrorist attacks in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 represent a significant change in New Zealand's threatscape.
It said the "long term implications" were still unknown but would "likely require policy work and capability development in areas such as intelligence and information sharing".
The NZSIS and GCSB have access agreements to limited databases held by Internal Affairs, Immigration, Customs, and Police. Those include births, deaths and marriages, information about who has arrived in New Zealand and reports of suspicious financial transactions.
Police can also provide information about people and places posing a direct threat to GCSB or NZSIS staff.
More specific information can be obtained on a case-by-case basis, including tax information at IRD, driver licence photographs at NZTA and adoption information.
The forecast of greater sharing between government departments might signal a push to have broader access to restricted databases outside specific cases.
It could see greater numbers of direct access agreements, which allow the agencies to draw information directly from government databases.
Greater numbers of staff would also likely be sought, says intelligence analyst Paul Buchanan, of 36th Parallel Assessments.
He said with NZSIS total staff levels at 300 people, it meant there were a limited number of operational officers free to develop human intelligence. That number includes those in management, carrying out security vetting and protective security duties.
The NZSIS had to focus on foreign intelligence gathering, domestic counter-intelligence and domestic intelligence. With the numbers available, he said it would be difficult to do all three.
- David Fisher
The Christchurch Call
Social networks put a number of new safeguards and restrictions in place, but have largely resisted sweeping changes in the six months since the mosque massacres.
Google-owned YouTube has taken the most concrete steps. It blocked searches in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. And in May, on the eve of the Christchurch Call summit, it removed its livestream feature for all mobile users - bar those with 1000 or more followers. The step means live video is no longer an option for most YouTube users, and that it will be cumbersome and time-consuming for any banned user to create a new, livestreaming-capable account.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg resisted calls to disable livestreaming. In his first-post Christchurch shootings interview, on April 7, he also opposed the idea of introducing a delay, which he said would "fundamentally break what livestreaming is for people. Most people are livestreaming, you know, a birthday party or hanging out with friends when they can't be together".
However, in May, Facebook did introduce new "one-strike" policies that could see individual users banned from livestreaming service for 30 days or more - if they posted hate or terror content, and potentially banned from the social network altogether if they repeatedly violated its posting policies. Many nationalist-themed Facebook groups have been removed since March 15.
Facebook also reinforced its human and AI defences against terror content, including new measures such as a filter that listed for gunshot-like noises - but with copies of the alleged gunman's clip still appearing (including one on Facebook-owned Instagram on Monday), it concedes the effort is a work in progress.
As part of the Christchurch Call agreement, Facebook put US$7.5m ($11.7m) toward research with three US universities to help stamp out terror and hate content online.
Twitter has not changed its free-for-all livestreaming policy, but in July it introduced new "hateful conduct" guidelines that tightened rules around what could be posted - with hate speech against religious groups used in examples. Chief executive Jack Dorsey met with Ardern in Wellington earlier this week. The PM said the pair discussed the persistence of 8Chan or 8Chan-style content on Twitter, but with no concrete measures being announced, the meeting seemed largely cosmetic.
In the immediate aftermath of March 15, our big three telcos - Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees - took the unprecedented step of blocking Kiwis' access to 8Chan and other sites hosting the alleged shooter's video - though they also stressed they did not want to play the role of deciding which content New Zealanders can and can't see.
In April, InternetNZ, which administers the NZ domain, said it had put "emergency measures" in place that "lock" a local website address with harmful content. During August, InternetNZ head Jordan Carter said although his organisation had the ability to make content inaccessible, he didn't want to play sheriff. The Government needed to clarify if the Chief Censor, Police or another agency - or combination of agencies - should make a call about which content to block, and when.
- Chris Keall
The search for justice
The 28-year-old Australian national accused of being the Christchurch mosque gunman wants to get his murder and terror trial moved out of Christchurch.
Through his lawyers, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson, the accused, who denies 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder, and a charge laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, will argue for a High Court trial venue change on October 3.
The eventual trial, which could take 6-12 weeks, has been scheduled to begin on May 4 next year.
However, the Crown has hinted that they could push the trial back a few weeks after Canterbury Muslim community concerns it would coincide with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, a Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Sir William Young of the Supreme Court is investigating the build-up to March 15.
The inquiry began within a month of the massacres – on April 10 – and is looking at whether police and security agencies should have acted before the attacks.
How the accused shooter acquired guns, whether relevant agencies could or should have known about his activities and whether they could have stopped the attack, along with a perceived lack of official response to complaints about racial attacks are among the main issues that have been raised during the submission period so far.
The role of social and mainstream media creating division has also been discussed.
Representatives from the Islamic Association, the New Zealand Police and the Institute for Law have also presented to the inquiry, as well as dozens of public agencies including Ethnic Affairs, the Defence Force and New Zealand's intelligence agencies.
Submissions close on September 27 and the commission will report its findings on December 10.
- Kurt Bayer
A temporary truce
In the days immediately following March 15, it was hard to imagine politics ever being the same.
Traditional rivalries were immediately suspended, and the year of delivery parked.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took Opposition leader Simon Bridges with her to Christchurch in the aftermath of events that have given her international recognition.
While the country was numb with grief, Ardern began ordering officials to work immediately on firearms law reform, security failures and extremism in social media.
Three days after the massacre, Cabinet approved gun law reforms in principle and the setting up of an inquiry into how it happened and what was missed, with bipartisan support.
Four days after the massacre, Muslim prayer rang out on the floor of Parliament as MPs met in an interfaith ceremony to mark the horrific events of that Friday.
During Ardern's formal statement to Parliament, she made a vow about the gunman: "He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety. And that is why you will never hear me mention his name."
Throughout the immediate aftermath, Ardern seemed to find a way to reflect the disbelief, the anger and sorrow of the country, and a wider international audience.
It was a period of irrelevance for the Opposition.
About a month after the massacre, the Government announcement rejecting the capital gains tax was the first sign that politics was getting back to normal.
But even then, the Opposition was cautious in its criticism of Ardern. Most criticism was framed as "well-intentioned but…"
Ardern was also planning international moves to eliminate violent extremism on social media, working on the so-called Christchurch Call to Action in Paris in mid-May alongside President Emmanuel Macron.
Despite concerns about possible limits on free speech, criticism was muted.
The Well-Being Budget on May 30 and the Budget "leaks" to National marked the end of suspended rivalries. Normal political hostilities resumed, and with greater intensity than before.
Bridges has gone as far as dismissing the Christchurch Call as a "talkfest".
- Audrey Young