CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand police promised a high-profile presence as schools and businesses in Christchurch reopened on Monday (Mar 18) after a gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in the city last week, and the prime minister said she would start work on tightening gun laws.
Families of victims were still waiting for bodies of those killed to be released after post mortems, with some of the dead to be taken overseas for burial.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police would be out in force to assure people as they returned to their weekday lives in Christchurch, with 200 extra police staff on duty.
Helicopters flew back and forth over the city on a grey, overcast Monday morning.
“You will see a highly visible police presence on the streets, around your businesses, around your schools, and even in the air, right across the country,” Bush said on Sunday.
“So you will feel safe to go about what you want to do.”
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on Apr 5 where police said he was likely to face more charges.
Friday’s attack in Christchurch, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labelled terrorism, was the worst ever mass shooting in New Zealand.
Ardern’s cabinet will meet on Monday for the first time since the attacks, with a tightening of gun laws on the agenda.
“What we have a responsibility to pursue in the aftermath of this terrorist attack will include work around gun laws … there are other areas we will discuss as well,” she told One News.
Parts of the city, including schools, were put into lockdown on Friday after the shootings as authorities assessed whether there were further threats. Ardern said trauma support would be available at centres across the community and in schools.
Police said the airport in the southern city of Dunedin, had been reopened early on Monday after a suspicious item found on the airfield turned out to be a hoax object.
The airport had been closed on late on Sunday, with some flights diverted to other airports, after the object was found.
“The NZDF (New Zealand Defence Force) Explosive Ordinance team neutralised the hoax object, and the scene where it was found has been secured,” the police said in a statement. “Enquiries are ongoing to establish who left the object.”