CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attends the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su
April 17, 2019
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday her coalition government would not proceed with a proposal for a capital gains tax (CGT) due to a lack of consensus and ruled out ever implementing such a tax under her leadership.
The surprise decision went against the position Ardern’s Labour Party had taken for more than a decade. The party had campaigned to bring in a tax on capital gains income to ensure fairness and balance.
A tax working group appointed by Ardern in February recommended a capital gains tax.
“All parties in the government entered into this debate with different perspectives and, after significant discussion, we have ultimately been unable to find a consensus,” Ardern said in a statement.
“While I have believed in a CGT, it’s clear many New Zealanders do not. That is why I am also ruling out a capital gains tax under my leadership in the future,” she said.
The proposed capital gains tax covered assets such as residential rental properties, land and buildings, business assets, intangible property and shares.
Ardern came to power in 2017 promising to pour money into social services and rein in economic inequality. Her government has lifted minimum wages and boosted benefits for poor families but business confidence has been sinking.
The debate over the new tax has been raging for months, with government critics and some property experts warning that it could hurt the housing market by compelling some investors to sell to avoid the tax.
New Zealand does not generally tax income in the form of capital gains.
Shares in retirement village operators, which own property assets and benefit from capital gains in asset sales, rose. Ryman Healthcare rose as much as 3.6 percent after the announcement.
“The CGT debate wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and over 18 months weakened our economy by scaring businesses owners, investors and mums & dads out of getting ahead,” opposition National Party leader Simon Bridges said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Praveen Menon; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Paul Tait)
FILE PHOTO: Firearms and accessories are displayed at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
April 12, 2019
SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Zealand’s state pension fund will sell off investments of NZ$19 million ($13 million) in makers of weapons outlawed by tough new firearms laws following the country’s worst peacetime mass shooting, it said on Friday.
Lawmakers voted almost unanimously this week to ban military-style semi-automatic guns and assault rifles less than a month after a lone gunman used them to kill 50 worshippers in attacks on mosques in Christchurch.
“Companies involved in the manufacture of civilian automatic and semi-automatic firearms, magazines or parts prohibited under New Zealand law have been excluded from the NZ$41 billion NZ Super Fund,” the fund said on its website.
The move was a response to the new law, it said, and identified holdings in seven companies to be affected by its decision, including American Outdoor Brands Corp, Sturm, Ruger & Co Inc and NOF Corp.
The others are Vista Outdoor Inc, OLIN Corp, Richemont and Daicel Corp.
Others may be identified in future, added the fund, which gave no timeframe for its divestments.
Makers of tobacco and some other munitions are already excluded from its investment mandate.
Authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, with 50 counts of murder following the Christchurch attacks.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
FILE PHOTO: An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is seen in the garage of a home outside Christchurch, New Zealand, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
April 11, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s top court should dismiss a Czech challenge to tighter EU controls on firearms introduced after the 2015 Paris attacks, the court’s legal adviser said on Thursday.
The Czech Republic maintains that the tougher European Commission rules, which make it harder for EU citizens to obtain semi-automatic rifles, were unduly restrictive for law-abiding gun-owners such as hunters.
It also says the Commission rules encroached on crime prevention policy, a matter for the national governments of EU member states.
“The court should dismiss the Czech Republic’s action in its entirety,” Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston said in a statement.
She said the EU directive mainly concerned the free movement of firearms and that this had an impact on crime prevention, but did not harmonize national crime prevention policies.
She added that the Commission did look into the impact of its planned rules and that its actions, notably reclassifying certain firearms as prohibited goods, were in line with the principle of proportionality.
Judges at the European Court of Justice follow the advice of their advocate generals in the majority of cases although they are not bound to do so. The ECJ generally issues rulings within 2-4 months of an advocate general’s opinion.
In 2017, the EU toughened laws against purchasing certain semi-automatic rifles like those used by Islamic State militants in the Paris attacks, and also made it easier to track weapons in national databases.
The Czech Republic filed a lawsuit arguing that the directive would just shift weapons to the black market and do nothing to increase security in the country, where hunting is a popular pastime and gun attacks are rare.
After 50 people were killed in a shooting at a New Zealand mosque on March 15, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern banned the sale of all military-style, semi-automatic and assault rifles. The New Zealand parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for tough new firearms laws.
(This story has been refiled to fix typo to “for” in last paragraph)
(Reporting by Clare Roth; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Heinrich)
FILE PHOTO: Firearms and accessories are displayed at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
April 11, 2019
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand police expect tens of thousands of firearms to be surrendered in a guns buy-back scheme after parliament passed tough new firearm laws in the wake of the country’s worst peacetime mass shooting.
Lawmakers in New Zealand voted almost unanimously on Wednesday to change gun laws, less than a month after a lone gunman killed 50 people in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch.
The new legislation bars the circulation and use of most semi-automatic firearms, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatic firearms, magazines over a certain capacity, and some shotguns. This includes the gun used by the suspect in the Christchurch shooting.
It granted an amnesty until Sept. 30 for people to surrender prohibited items. More than 300 weapons had already been handed in, police minister Stuart Nash told parliament.
Police Deputy Police Commissioner Michael Clement told a news conference on Thursday that they are not sure how many guns they would receive as New Zealand has no law requiring people to register firearms.
“Its a great unknown question…everybody appreciates that there is no register of firearms with regards to the type of firearms we are talking about,” Clement said.
“So It could be in the tens of thousands, it could be more,” he added.
There are about 1.2-1.5 million firearms in New Zealand, according to gunpolicy.org. Of these, the government has said that a record of licenses show 13,500 firearms are military style semi-automatics (MSSAs). But the number could be higher.
Clement said details are being worked out of the gun buy-back scheme and he urged gun owners in possession of the prohibited firearms to register online.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has estimated that the gun buy-backs would cost the government between NZ$100-200 million but other government ministers have warned that the costs could be higher depending on how many guns are handed to the police.
Authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, with 50 counts of murder following the Christchurch attacks on March 15.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)
Flowers and a New Zealand national flag are seen at a memorial as tributes to victims of the mosque attacks near Linwood mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su
April 10, 2019
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All but one member of New Zealand’s parliament voted on Wednesday to change gun laws, less than a month after deadly shooting attacks on two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people.
The gun reform bill, which passed 119-1 after its final reading in parliament, must now receive royal assent from the governor general before it becomes law.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with 50 murder charges after the attack on two mosques on March 15.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
A flower tribute is seen outside Al Noor mosque where more than 40 people were killed by a suspected white supremacist during Friday prayers on March 15, in Christchurch, New Zealand March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su
April 8, 2019
By Edgar Su and Charlotte Greenfield
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (Reuters) – On a small farm on the outskirts of Christchurch in New Zealand, Omar Nabi digs a small hole and sharpens a knife as he prepares to slaughter a sheep as a blessing to his father – a victim of the mass killings at the Al Noor mosque.
Hunched between his father’s collection of rusted cars, Nabi softly said a prayer and slit the animal’s neck, facing it towards Mecca. He removed the pelt and prepared the meat for cooking. Blood was pooled in a hole where he plans to plant a tree. No part of the animal was wasted, he said.
Nabi first slaughtered a sheep when he was 11, each step supervised by his father. Nabi is now 43.
“My father was my whole life… I give thanks for my father, he’s done a lot,” he said. His father, Haji Daoud Nabi, had hoped to build a small mosque on the property, a plan his son intends to complete. “This means a lot to me, Dad put a piece of heaven in Christchurch.”
Several weeks after an attack on Muslim worshippers that killed fifty people and left dozens wounded, the lives of survivors and the families of victims have changed irrevocably. Some survivors feel emboldened, others are haunted by memories of the attack and haven’t been able to return to the mosque.
Burying loved ones brought relief to many families, but reminders of their losses are never far away, from an empty seat at a dinner table to the prospect of Ramadan celebrations in a few weeks.
The shootings on March 15 shook New Zealand and prompted the government to tighten gun laws and launch a powerful national inquiry into the country’s worst peacetime massacre. An Australian man, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with 50 murders and 39 attempted murders.
(For a photo essay of survivors of the attack and victim’s families, please click this link: https://reut.rs/2WSIG1M)
Survivor Mark Rangi, 59, feels his future is in limbo following wounds to both legs. The New Zealander, who lives in Sydney, had never been to Al Noor Mosque before the attack.
After visiting relatives in a nearby town, he had attended the mosque before his return flight to Sydney so he could seek spiritual guidance on the direction of his life.
Instead, he ended up running for his life, bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds in his legs. After surgery, he is able to walk slowly but Rangi is doubtful he can return to work as a baggage handler in Sydney.
“I wouldn’t have a clue (what to do now). I want to be independent,” he said from a youth hostel where he is staying, overlooking piles of flowers placed in a makeshift memorial. “I’m very lucky that I didn’t get injured worse, so I’m grateful for that.”
In a one-storey house a short drive from Al Noor mosque, Zahra Fathy turned pages in a photo album compiled by her husband Hussein Moustafa, who died in the massacre. As part of the customary four-month and 10 day-mourning period, she wears simple, unadorned clothing and spends most of her time at home.
“It’s hard to stay thinking about what happened, so I have to escape this and think about what’s next,” she said.
Her husband had spent time at the mosque on most days, organizing its library of religious texts and tending to a vegetable garden, which provided the community with pumpkins, rocket and broccoli.
She is now considering visiting her extended family in Alexandria, Egypt, where she and her husband both grew up, for Ramadan.
“Being all on your own during Ramadan is tough,” said her son, Mohammed, who flew home from a new job in Saudi Arabia on learning of his father’s death.
After some trepidation, Mohammed worshipped last Friday at the Al Noor mosque for the first time since his father’s death.
“I’m praying in the same area, the same corner that my dad used to pray. I wanted to do that,” he said. “It was a bit emotional at first, I got a few tears, it was quite tough. I kept imagining him next to me, I kept looking around, looking for the bullet holes.”
Before Ramadan, Zahra and her family plan to mark the graduation of her youngest son, Zeyad, 22, who also returned to Christchurch from a new job, in Canberra. “He was very, very proud of you,” Zahra told her son.
The family had an active WhatsApp messaging group to stay in touch. Zeyad had shared a recent trip to Europe, where his father had also traveled as a young man, and to Egypt. His father had provided long history lessons on the places Zeyad visited and was overjoyed his son was meeting his Egyptian relatives. Now, the WhatsApp group is not so active.
“It feels like something’s missing… It’s hard to explain, I think it just feels weird if we use it,” Zeyad said.
SENSE OF MISSION
In a sleepy Christchurch suburb where he owns a homeopathy business, Farid Ahmed has worked to bring his community and his country together. Farid, a wheelchair user, survived the shooting but his wife Husna was killed.
He spent one recent Sunday going door-to-door to thank his neighbors for their support.
When his neighbors heard of his wife’s death, “they came running… they were in tears,” he said. “That was wonderful support and expression of love.”
His message of forgiveness and peace to avoid “a heart that is boiling like a volcano” has made headlines around the world and was broadcast in a heartfelt speech at a national memorial service.
“I admire him. I couldn’t do that,” said a neighbor, a Christian who lives four doors down. “We’ve learnt a lot about Islam over the last few days… (it’s) crazy how similar our two faiths are.”
Across the city, survivor Sardar Faisal has thrown himself with vigor into helping co-ordinate dozens of volunteers who prepare meals and run errands for the widows of victims of the attack. As a result, he realized he was not spending much time with his own wife and young children.
“Maybe it’s survivor’s guilt, maybe it’s empathy because whenever I visit the affected families, the only thing I think about is that when I was in that area, they were being shot, the bullets that I heard,” he said over tea at a friend’s house.
On the day of the shootings, Faisal was late to the mosque, an uncharacteristic trait that possibly spared his life. When the gunman burst in and started shooting worshippers at prayer, Faisal was in the bathroom, just about to wash in preparation for prayer and so was able to hide from the gunman.
What he saw and heard that day haunts him, he said. He struggles to focus at work and suffers nightmares as deadly scenarios, almost like a video game, run on repeat through his sleep.
Alongside sorrow and pain, others feel the close call has reinvigorated their lives.
“It gave me courage,” said Hazem Mohammed, originally from Baghdad, who played dead in Al Noor mosque as the gunman stood over him, wounded and surrounded by the bodies of fellow worshippers.
“I cry for two reasons. The first half because I lost friends, they are gone,” he said. “And the other tears… these tears are for joy, because I was reborn again on Friday the 15th of March 2019.”
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Edgar Su in Christchurch; additional reporting by Jill Gralow, Natasha Howitt and Tom Westbrook; Editing by Neil Fullick)