NZ First leader Winston Peters has claimed Dame Jacinda Ardern never informed him the Christchurch terrorist sent his chilling manifesto to the Prime Minister’s Office in an email just minutes before the March 15 attack – despite it being widely reported by news media at the time and addressed in a press conference the next day.
In an astonishing post on social media, Peters tonight called on Ardern to give evidence at the ongoing coronial inquest into the terror attack to explain what he alleged was her “lack of transparency to the New Zealand public”.
Peters’ claims come after a parliamentary staffer gave evidence at the inquest today in Christchurch and said that six minutes after soon-to-be mass murderer Brenton Tarrant sent an email to the Prime Minister’s Office, a call was made to 111 to report its “concerning” contents.
Peters, the deputy prime minister at the time, claimed this was the first the public had learned the Prime Minister’s Office had received the email.
However, on March 16, 2019, just a day after the attack which killed 51 people, Ardern confirmed in a press conference – reported globally – that her office had received the information in a generic inbox for the prime minister.
“We waited until today to find out, for the first time, that the Prime Minister’s Office received information about the March 15 terrorist attack before the massacre took place,” Peters claimed in his post on X.
“Jacinda Ardern should be called to the hearing and asked to explain this appalling lack of transparency to the New Zealand public – let alone to the Deputy Prime Minister and government coalition partner.
“This was a crisis event. To keep this basic information hidden is not only unacceptable it is now clearly indicative of how that office worked. The next question is who else inside Cabinet knew and said nothing?”
Peters has been approached for comment by the Herald about his post. The Prime Minister’s Office has also been asked for comment.
Several social media users also pointed out under Peters’ post tonight that the Prime Minister’s Office had already confirmed it had received the email.
Ardern’s response to the attack was commended worldwide, including an image of Ardern, wearing a hijab while embracing victims’ family members, later being projected onto the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
The parliamentary staffer, whose name is suppressed, told the inquest today that they told police the email outlined an “attack on Christchurch”, threatened the use of firearms and explosive devices – and named three particular mosques.
He said he was contacted by a colleague on March 15, 2019, after the manifesto landed in a generic inbox for Ardern.
The colleague was worried about the contents of the email – which was also sent to about 70 other recipients including then National leader Simon Bridges, other political figures and media at 1.33pm.
After looking over the email – at 1.39pm – the staffer was equally concerned and called 111.
At 1.40pm, Tarrant stormed into the Al Noor mosque on Dean’s Ave and started shooting at men, women and children gathered for Friday prayers.
The inquest began yesterday before Coroner Brigitte Windley in Christchurch.
It is set to run for at least six weeks.
More than 600 people have registered to attend in person over that time and another 100 will watch via a livestream link in New Zealand and around the world.
Coroner Windley explained the inquest process and why it was crucial to seek answers, for not just the families of the dead and survivors but for the whole of New Zealand.
She said the objective was to provide answers to outstanding questions for grieving families about what happened to their loved ones – and to examine whether anything further can be done to prevent more tragedies.
In March 2020, Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and a terrorism charge.
Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.