Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ‘only now made aware’ a minor among deported Kiwis from Australia

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on the two-year anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attack that “our hearts go out” to the victims of that day.

She also said she would speak to officials to be briefed on reports a “minor” was in a group of people recently deported from Australia to New Zealand.

Ardern spoke to media at her weekly post-Cabinet media conference in the Beehive this afternoon.

Ardern spoke about the initiatives the Government has put in place in the aftermath of the mosque shootings.

The Government is establishing a $1 million community engagement response fund to support staff for the Royal Commission, and an advisory group to guide the Government’s response.

This fund will help support staff, often voluntary, from community groups who continue to engage with the commission’s work.

It will also set up an advisory group to ensure the “timely and effective and accountable implementation of the Government’s response”. Both of these were asked for, Ardern said.

On March 15, 2019, a terrorist stormed two mosques in Christchurch and murdered 51 people.

The terrorist was sentenced to life in prison with no parole – the harshest sentence which can be handed down in New Zealand.

Ardern said the Government still has plans underway to tackle hate speech.

“I’m committed in ensuring New Zealand continues to play a strong role in countering violent extremism and, of course, we all remain absolutely committed to honouring the 51 lives lost on March 15,” she said.

She said she spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron last week about countering violent extremism.

Ardern said they both agreed that more needed to be done.

Deported 501s from Australia

Ardern said she had “only just been made aware” that there was a “minor” in a group of people recently deported from Australia to New Zealand.

She has asked for a briefing on this issue from officials.

She said she wants to go back and look at the circumstances of this deportation.

Ardern said she still does not agree with the deportation policy – but she questioned whether it was appropriate if a minor was involved.

On Australian PM Scott Morrison, she said he “knows my position” on this issue.

She said she would have expected care to have been taken, if a minor was involved.

Ardern said it would have been something officials would have been aware of – but she does not get a breakdown each time there are people being deported.

“At this point, those who need to know do,” she said on the issue.

Transtasman bubble

Ardern said officials are still working on a transtasman bubble.

There are a number of processes that are being hammered out, she said.

But things have shifted recently which have meant the issue has dragged out a little longer.

She said there were a number of “complicating factors” when it came to figuring out this bubble.

She said the Government has “never stopped working” on the bubble.

Cook Islands PM to visit

Ardern also announced that Cook Island Prime Minister Mark Brown is visiting New Zealand next week.

Brown is the first foreign head of state to visit New Zealand since the pandemic hit New Zealand’s shores last year.

Ardern said it “is significant” to have the Cook Islands Prime Minister visiting.

She said they would be talking about the impact of the lack of tourism in the Cook Islands, and the vaccine rollout.

Asked if it would signal the opening of the Cooks Islands bubble, Ardern wouldn’t comment – she would only say there were a “range of issues on the table”.

This morning, Ardern told TVNZ that the Government had provided support to victims of the mosque attacks – including immigration assistance and access to the wider welfare system for those who may not have been eligible.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Health officials this afternoon revealed there were again no community Covid-19 cases in Auckland.

But there were seven cases in managed isolation.

That means the number of active Covid-19 cases in New Zealand is 93 – and none of those is in the community.

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