The man accused of committing the Christchurch terror attack has become the first to be charged under New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act.

The 28 year old Australian now faces 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the man has also now been charged with engaging in a Terrorist Act under section 6A of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

It follows consultation between police, Crown Law and the Christchurch Crown Solicitors Office.

Tuesday’s charge is the first time anyone has been charged under terror laws in New Zealand. Terror charges were considered in 2007 following raids at an alleged paramilitary training camp in the Te Urewera mountain range, but the Solicitor General declined to use the Terrorism Suppression Act, saying the legislation was “complex and incoherent”.

Armed police have been posted at the doors of both the Al Noor Masjid and the Linwood Islamic Centre since the March 15 attack, and will remain during the Ramadan period, which ends in early June.

“There are a lot of people within the Muslim community in Christchurch from different countries and some have a different experience of the police and justice or different perceptions of the law, so to have the police meet with us and explain how things unfolded meant a lot to everyone.”

Police would not comment further about the charges as the case is before the courts, Bush said.

The accused gunman is next expected to appear in the High Court in June.


Image: Stacy Squires / Stuff


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