Initial NZ response to Sydney bombings

The Cabinet Committee on Domestic & External Security Co-ordination has met this morning to consider New Zealand’s response to the horrific terrorist attack in Sydney.

The Prime Minister made the following statement at 6.30 a.m.

The NZ Government is sending today to Sydney an initial team of 84 staff from the NZ Aviation Security Service. They will assist their Australian counterparts at Kingsford-Smith Airport in Sydney, once it reopens. The RNZAF will fly them over this afternoon.

This represents 20% of the total AvSec staff, and will lead to some significant delays at New Zealand Airports for the next few days. The Commissioner of Police is making available a like number of police officers, normally rostered on traffic patrols, to replace these staff at NZ Airports. However it will take some time to assimilate the Police into these temporary duties, so the Government does recommend any non-urgent travel be delayed where possible.

Finally I have instructed all Government Departments to fly both the New Zealand and Australian flags at half mast today.

The Prime Minister also took a couple of questions:

Q: Will New Zealand be assisting Australia militarily under the ANZUS Treaty?

A: Australia has not invoked or requested assistance under ANZUS. The Treaty is still in force between Australia and New Zealand, and we will honour any request made. However we would be supporting Australia in dealing with these attacks, without reservation, regardless of ANZUS obligations because it is the right thing to do.

Q: Do you support the Australian decision to close their airport and some of their highways?

A: Yes. No effort must be spared to prevent further attacks and locate those responsible. Further I would never second guess the decision of my Australian counterpart in any case.

Q: Can you confirm if the New Zealand military and police have been placed on a higher level of alert?

A: New Zealand does not have a formal system of alert levels, but the Cabinet Committee has made some precautionary decisions in this area.

Q: Can you tell us what they were?

A: No.

Q: Why not?

A: If you really have to ask, then I am surprised.

Q: How extensive will NZ airport delays be, with the transference of 20% of aviation security staff to Australia?

A: My advice is that passengers should turn up to airports 50 to 60 minutes before their flights, so they can be processed in time. And that is all for now, I expect to announce further decisions later today.

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