1.5 million guns in NZ - Maori Council calls for reform in wake of Ōtautahi attack

By Leo Horgan

The Māori Council has spoken of the need for gun reform and community-driven investment in the wake of the terror attack that devastated Christchurch and left 50 dead on Friday.

The council called for a review of the current state of guns and registered weapons in New Zealand, a move Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also supported.

 “There are more than 1.5 million guns owned by New Zealanders or roughly one for every three New Zealanders,” says Chairman of the New Zealand Maori Council Auckland District, Matthew Tukaki.  

 “We also know through research and evidence that there are many guns in circulation that are not registered and let’s face it – there are some people with those guns already committing crimes.”

The council also called for an immediate audit and assessment of gun ownership and owners.

Matthew Tukaki - chairman of the New Zealand Maori Council Auckland District (Source: File).

“It must stand to reason that there needs to be greater investment in the monitoring of weapons already here and [who] has them – therefore a complete review of the current state of fire arms in New Zealand.

Tukaki says a system of periodic review, sampling and audit, while costly, is a necessity which should already have been in place.

“That investment should have been made years ago – our approach to the management and oversight around firearms appears to have lapsed.”

The council also called for greater investment in infrastructure to ensure security for at-risk communities, with a focus on community-based models of empowerment.

“That could be investing in training and monitoring systems, resilience building and strengthening as well as awareness training. Each of these things can go a long way to building a platform and sense of safety,” says Tukaki.

“Communities often know what is needed but the challenge has always been getting government to listen.  Instead of a top down approach, we need community-driven solutions.

Such an approach could make use of the networks and community-links of Māori Wardens, according to Tukaki.

“We have more than eight hundred New Zealand Maori Wardens out there in communities every single day and one approach we would urge the government to consider is how we can activate our Wardens to also play a community liaison role – culture to culture, kanohi ki te kanohi.”

The council has also urged a review of New Zealand’s intelligence services information and assessment protocols when it comes to threats against New Zealand and New Zealanders, echoing the sentiments of Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson.

“At the end of the day all New Zealanders just want to be safe and secure in their own communities, homes, workplaces, gathering places and places of worship,” says Tukaki.

“It is up to all of us to ensure this never happens again and, in order to do so, we need to throw open the doors of our whare and begin having much more deep and meaningful conversations around reform.”