'We have to own this' – Andrew Little vows no stone will be left unturned in Christchurch terror attack investigations

Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for intelligence agencies GCSB and SIS is reassuring New Zealand Muslims can feel safe in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks in which 50 people died.

Speaking on TVNZ1's Q+A Mr Little said since the events on Friday the amount of effort and work that is going into the agency.... has been absolutely phenomenal".

"It is a 24/7 operation now to do the intelligence work to get the background on individuals that have been identified, others who might be associated, to find out what has gone on."

Your playlist will load after this ad

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in a Christchurch court today charged with murder. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Little was asked if New Zealand needed to take responsibility of the terror attacks despite the suspect being from Australia. 

"This happened in New Zealand. Fifty New Zealanders have had their lives taken from them, 50 other New Zealanders are in various states of injury and critical injury. This happened in New Zealand and it happened to New Zealanders, so we have to own this.

"We have to know whether there have been failings, whether there have been gaps, the first responsibility of Government is to keep its people safe, and we did not keep people safe who were doing the most innocent of things... at a place of worship where they should have been safe and it should have been a sanctuary for them."

"We have to not only deal with the perpetrator... but to understand how this could have happened in this country."

He said no stone would be left unturned. 

Mr Little did not accept the criticism that New Zealand’s intelligence agencies failed by not picking up on the planning behind the attack.

"One of the reasons we've commissioned an inquiry is to look at what the spy agencies, the police, customs, immigration, what their intelligence activities were picking up, what they should have known and could have known.

Mr Little also did not accept the notion there had been too much focus by intelligence agencies on Islamic extremist and less focus elsewhere. 

"For the last nine months, given the rise of right wing extremism, white supremism in other parts of the world, that has been a discreet focus of our agencies and reviewing their activity."

"Each tip-off they got that related to extremism of whatever form, was followed up."

Your playlist will load after this ad

He was asked if there had been failings by New Zealand’s intelligence agencies. Source: Q+A

He said New Zealand is not a surveillance state, and was not in a postilion to be currently. 

However all security agencies currently had a heightened sensitivity to threats and a heightened level of monitoring. 

"There is a lot of action and activity."

In reference to politicians making inflammatory statements around migration, he said: "I think it's incumbent on all leaders in the way we express ourselves is not to do so in inflammatory ways, not to pick enemies... respecting difference, but allowing a debate to happen."

Your playlist will load after this ad

He was asked if there had been failings by New Zealand’s intelligence agencies. Source: Q+A