How Christchurch might heal
By Richard Harman (author)
Today the national memorial service in Christchurch marks the end of the formal mourning period for those killed in the mosque massacre.
The eyes of the Muslim world will be on the city as the Dubai-based singer, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and the Prime Minister headline the service in Hagley Park. Yusuf will perform, the prime Minister will speak and the Muslim community will read the names of those killed.
The aim is that it should begin the healing process in the city.
Gerry Brownlee is a Christchurch MP and the former Minister in Charge of Earthquake recovery and now his party’s spokesperson on the intelligence services.
This combination of roles makes him uniquely qualified to try and put the events of a fortnight ago in perspective.
After the earthquakes the Government got the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, to prepare a report on what the implications for people’s health might be.
“We got him to do an analysis of what we could expect," he said.
“He laid out for us what was going to be the long term effect on the community, particularly from a mental health perspective.
“And we had this document that could lead us to what we needed to do; what we needed to fund; what we needed to make available.
“We followed that prescription pretty well, and it actually has unfolded like that.
There will be the same sort of need I think to make that assessment and to make sure that some sort of services are available.”
Brownlee believes the effect of the shootings on the whole Christchurch community has been profound; in part because though the earthquakes were devastating, people understood they were a geological phenomena, but the shootings were not so easily understood.
And he thinks the effects will be unseen for some time.
“You'll have the national outpouring of grief on behalf of those who've suffered loss, but you also have a deep-seated fear about the prospect of us no longer being the sleepy hollow that we' thought we were and the safe haven that we believed we were.
“And for all of those people who get children locked down at schools, there will be a long memory of just the fear that they would have experienced that afternoon and the anxiety they might have had about not knowing exactly what was going on. “
“The whole city was very interesting.
“It was really quiet for a period time.
“People got off the roads pretty quickly and. you know I don’t think that sort of effect goes away in anty kind of hurry.”
Brtownlee has a whole series of questions about the shootings; not just the events themselves but questions about the lead-up and then the response.
He believes that the intelligence services fell down ion the job and told Newshub’s AM Show that he had very little tolerance for that “blasé, he wasn't on our radar screen” explanation.
“They are resourced, despite what they might say,” he said.
“They are resourced to be able to do that."
Brownlee’s attitude is subtly different to that of National ‘s Leader, Simon Bridges who has been calling for law changes to make it possible for the services to trawl the internet to identify potential extremists.
Brownlee believes it is too early to talk about any legislative changes.
“ Parliament itself considered the current legislation that guides these two services and their relationships with defence and police.
“And the legislation is relevant.
“There are plenty of people who say its world leading, and it works well.
“So let's test their case; what should have been known and what could have been known through the inquiry process.
“I think that's appropriate.“
Brownlee has an open mind as to whether the legislation will need changing or whether what happened was a case of human failure.
It is becoming clear that the investigation into the background of the killer has now become much more complicated because of its extension to Europe.
There are still questions about the police response; not just to the shooting but to the complaints about the Dunedin gun club and then there were the allegations from the Islamic Women's Council that the SIS ignored their complaints about white extremism in 2016.
At the same time, POLITIK is aware that there are criticisms of what some see as excessive oversight and top heavy management in the agencies raising questions about whether sufficient resources are actually devoted to front line intelligence gathering.
Brownlee won't talk about these issues, but his comments on AM suggest he may hold some strong views on them.
His leader meantime is playing the blame game.
He has blamed the current Labour leadership for what he says is the current inadequate security legislation although the legislation was passed by the Key Government.
The difference between Brownlee and Bridges may not be so much over what should be done but when the party should start pushing for changes.
Brownlee prefers to wait until the inquiry has reported; Bridges obviously wants to press the issue now.