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Have your say on National Strategy to keep you safe

Praneeta Mahajan

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, 9 November 2022

With increasing threats to the Nation’s safety and security, the government has sought public opinion on its proposed Long-Term National Security Strategy.

According to Intelligence reports and briefings given by officials, New Zealand faces threats of terrorism, violent extremism, strategic competition in the Pacific, foreign interference, cyber attacks and various other challenges.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) has prepared the first long-term National Security Strategy to face these threats. The Terrorist attacks in Christchurch on March 15, 2019, and the subsequent incidents that have occurred in Auckland and Wellington prompted the government to evolve a plan that will address the potential for extreme disturbances.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said that the National Security Strategy will reflect who we are as a Nation and how we protect New Zealand in the face of these challenges.

“It will recognise our unique constitutional arrangements under te Tiriti o Waitangi, as well as te ao Māori and our place in the Pacific,” she said.

Ms Ardern said that the March 15, 2019 attacks changed the country forever.

“It showed how New Zealand is not immune to the threats and atrocities that happen around the world. It also exposed the need to do more to ensure everyone felt safe in the country. The report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terror attack made recommendations with emphasis on the need for stronger leadership and direction in National Security, including recommending a new National intelligence and security agency. It also highlighted the importance of accountable decision-making and increased public discussion on national security issues,” she said.

The National Security Strategy will also address the concerns and suggestions raised by the Royal Commission of Inquiry. It recognised that the geographic distance and small size of a country like New Zealand are no longer sufficient protection blankets.

Public Submissions Invited

The government now wants to hear the views and opinions of the people, community leaders, ethnic groups as well as community organisations to develop a better and stronger strategy to ensure a robust framework around which all future policies and plans can be drafted.

National Security envelopes a concept that is wider than terrorism.

Foreign interference is a threat to democratic functioning, cybercrime is a menace that needs to be tackled with swift pre-emptive measures, violent extremism from both within the country as well as overseas and competition in the Pacific harm national functioning and stability.

New Zealanders have an opportunity to shape the first National Security Strategy.

Why it matters

The Strategy will set out a plan for how we can work together with our communities, the private sector and international partners. Your feedback will build on what we have already heard from the public through other recent engagements on national security, including the National Security Long-term Insights Briefing. The National Security Strategy will carry through the reforms recommended by the Report of the Royal Commission into policy. The Strategy is expected to be finalised by mid-2023.

What the experts say

While the draft is a good starting point for discussions about the country’s strategies and plans to manage current and future threats, many have voiced the opinion that it needs a wider representation and discussion across varied platforms.

Dr Pushpa Wood

Wellington resident Dr Pushpa Bhardwaj Wood, a founding and Life Member of the Wellington Interfaith Council and the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Wellington Chapter said that everyone has a voice and now is the time to make it heard.

“Every one of us has the moral responsibility to take part in this draft. These threats are as serious from within as they are from outside. This is not an initiative by any particular government, but a part of a long-term National strategy, and hence, it is essential that we ensure everyone gets a seat at the table,” she said, during an informal meeting with community leaders.

According to Dr Wood, we need wider representation from youth, communities, experts, ethnic groups, women, and wider communities to ensure no crucial details are left out.

“I believe that the ethnic communities, in particular, can contribute tremendously to the cultural, linguistic and religious competency required to tackle some of the threats around terrorism that are a crucial part of the strategy as terrorism can come from any community against any community,” she said.

Ranjna Patel

Auckland-based Community Leader Ranjna Patel, who is a Founder and Chairman of Gandhi Nivas, an initiative that has been working to minimise family violence by helping offending men to return to their homes as reformed people, agreed on wider representation.

“No society can find answers in isolation. The diverse weave of society in New Zealand makes it significant for all communities to be heard and represented in something so pathbreaking and crucial,” she said.

Selva Ramasami

Mr Selva Ramasami of the Wellington Hindu Council described Disinformation as “a true threat that needs to be highlighted.”

“In the age of Social Media and various communication platforms, we need to ensure that communal harmony is not compromised. We must have a zero-tolerance policy on hate speeches of all kinds across all platforms. That requires close surveillance and vigilance for which the government needs to equip itself,” he said.

Echoing those views, Manish Tanna, an academic and an active community leader in Auckland said that the Strategy should assess various threats and plan to meet them.

“The radicalisation of the youth through technology, the ‘Dark Web’ facilitating organised crime, socio-religious threats, cyber security, disinformation and economic threats like money laundering are just challenges that must be addressed effectively. We need a protective shield to keep New Zealand safe,” he said.

Manish Tanna

Mr Tanna said that mutual respect and equality as a society should be the first milestone.

“Public opinion becomes vital to achieving that milestone as it is still a draft and we can make this an inclusive framework, which can safeguard the interests of all members of the society, and not have a myopic view representative of a select few minds,” he said.

An Appeal to participate

The community leaders urged all New Zealanders to have their say in participating in shaping the National Security Strategy.

“A collective and wider discussion is the only way forward to find effective and enduring solutions to threats and challenges that surround us,” they said.

Please visit https://consultation.dpmc.govt.nz/national-security-strategy/contribute/

For more information on the government’s response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry Report, please visit https://dpmc.govt.nz/our-programmes/national-security/royal-commission-inquiry-terrorist-attack-christchurch-masjidain

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Hamilton.

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