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Protecting our crowded places from attack – New Zealand’s strategy

New Zealand is not immune to acts of terrorism. The Christchurch terror attack in 2019 and the recent attack in Auckland on 3 September 2021 shows that a consistent approach to protecting our crowded places is needed.

In 2019 the New Zealand Government launched the Protecting our crowded places from attack – New Zealand’s strategy (Crowded places strategy), which provides information and resources to owners and operators of crowded places on how to prepare for and build resilience against attacks.

The development of this strategy was one of a number of recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attacks on the Christchurch mosques in 2019.

Access the crowded places strategy on the New Zealand Police website

Access the full report on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019, Te Kōmihana Uiui a te whakaeke kaiwhakatuma i nga whare Kōrana o Ōtautahi i te 15 o Poutū-te-rangi 2019, website

In our last Property Knowledge Hour for the year, Inspector Brent Register, Prevention Manager – Community Focus from New Zealand Police spoke to a group of Government property professionals about the crowded places strategy; its objectives, major elements and how to implement effective protective security.

Crowded places strategy

In early stages of strategy development, tangata whenua gifted the strategy working group with a pre European story about an East Coast chief who, under attack, seeks shelter from a North Island iwi. In response to the chief’s request for refuge, the iwi said:

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"Kia kahu pitogatonga te matatini. We will shelter you with this cloak – it is an impenetrable garment. Come and be safe with us.

We were lucky enough to be gifted that statement to put on our strategy. It really makes sense it talks about a protective garment to put over the whole of New Zealand to keep it safe."

Inspector Brent Register  Prevention Manager – Community Focus, New Zealand Police

Crowded places are locations that large numbers of people access easily and predictably. They can change depending on the point in time. Because of their inherent nature, they are attractive targets for attacks.

The Crowded places strategy was launched to help owners and operators protect their crowded places from attack. The strategy is adapted from the Australian version and reflects the local context and values eg it links to Te Whare Tapa Whā - Sir Mason Durie’s model of health and well being.

Learn more about how to prepare your crowded place on the New Zealand Police website

Implementing effective protective security

Effective protective security starts with owners and operators assessing the risks and vulnerabilities of their crowded place in a proportionate way and then implementing appropriate mitigations for the risks.

“We don’t want to turn our schools into prisons, or look like prisons, we don’t want our churches, synagogues and maraes to look so protected that nobody wants to go there.

“If you go down to the crux of terrorism, what they want you to do is be scared to go out and enjoy life. We don’t want that in New Zealand at all.” Inspector Brent Register, Prevention Manager – Community Focus, New Zealand Police.

To reduce risk, the four aspects of protective security (also known as layers): deter, detect, delay and respond to and recover from attack, should be taken into account. As an example, detection, is about knowing your space and empowering staff to ask questions.

“Don’t be scared to challenge the CEO who is working arounds without his or her lanyard.

“It doesn’t matter who they are, challenging and getting that security challenge culture going is really how you can detect things.” Inspector Brent Register, Prevention Manager – Community Focus, New Zealand Police.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution – actual mitigations will differ from location to location. They should be monitored regularly for their effectiveness and reviewed at appropriate times.

The first step for owners and operators is to conduct an initial assessment of their locations attractiveness to potential attackers. This can be done using the strategy’s self-assessment tool.

Learn how to prepare your crowded place using the self-assessment tool on the New Zealand Police website

The lesson for everyone is that in the event of an attack we need to Escape, Hide, Tell and we need to become familar with this approach to keeping ourselves and others safe.

He Whenua Taurikura – annual hui on countering terrorism and violent extremism

We all have a role in making New Zealand safe and inclusive. In addition to a strategy, the Royal Commission of Inquiry has recommended that an annual hui on countering terrorism and violent extremism be held to build relationships and share understanding.

Learn about He Whenua Taurikura, New Zealand’s annual hui on countering terrorism and violent extremism on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Te Tari o te Pirimia Me te Komiti Matua website

Government Property Group holds regular knowledge hours to bring public sector property specialists together, to collaborate and build a shared knowledge and understanding as we work together to deliver government expectations for office accommodation.

Property knowledge hour sessions are displayed in the key dates section on the New Zealand Government Procurement and Property website.

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