A counter-terrorism legislation bill has returned to New Zealand’s Parliament for second reading in an important step taken by the country towards giving enforcement agencies greater power to tackle terrorist activities.
The legislation is expected to introduce the criminal offence of “planning or preparation for a terrorist act”, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Minister added that this change has been long recommended to plug up a loophole in New Zealand’s legislation to help prevent terrorist attacks, reports Xinhua news agency.
The bill is expected to go through its final stages in Parliament to become law by the end of this month.
The move was considered as a response to a horrific knife attack at a supermarket earlier this month.
The attacker was shot dead by police on the spot after injuring seven people, including three in critical conditions.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a terrorist attack carried out by an “extremist” known to authorities since 2016.
The legislation also responds to the Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15, 2019 that killed 51 people and injured 40.
“They are reminders of how crucial it is to have laws which provide the tools we need to act early to prevent and disrupt terrorist activity,” Faafoi said.
The bill addresses longstanding gaps in New Zealand’s counter terrorism legislation that seek to protect New Zealanders, the Minister said, adding it incorporates public input including a recommended change to the definition of a terrorist act to include the intention to intimidate, rather than to induce terror, as is defined in the current law.
The definition change brings the definition of a terrorist act into line with counter terrorism laws in other countries, he said, adding it strengthens the laws to respond to the changing nature of terrorism as more threats come from lone actors rather than terrorist organisations.
The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill extends terrorism finance offences to also criminalize providing wider forms of support to terrorist individuals or groups, such as goods and services.