We will spend $208m buying back guns, but not $35m to support victims mental suffering?


This exclusive by Newsroom is not only an outstanding piece of journalism, but it raises serious questions about the motives of not allowing the victims of the Christchurch atrocity to access ACC payments…

Ministers vetoed ACC extension for terror victims

Government ministers considered – but rejected – special support via ACC for those mentally traumatised by the Christchurch terror attack. David Williams reports.

The advice came head-spinningly fast.

ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway spoke to officials urgently after the Christchurch mosques shooting, acutely aware that the country’s no-fault accident compensation scheme had a glaring gap. The Accident Compensation Corporation, or ACC, covers death and injury, and is a safety net for those injured at work. But, other than providing a handful of initial counselling sessions, it doesn’t cover those mentally injured who aren’t physically harmed.

For example, a plumber driving to a job who was traumatised by seeing a person shot by the gunman on March 15 is eligible for weekly ACC compensation of 80 percent of their pay. But an uninjured worshipper at the Al Noor or Linwood mosques, who witnessed the death of the person praying next to them and now has post-traumatic stress disorder, doesn’t qualify.

(Differentiating between victims was a point of contention raised in a protest by some Christchurch Muslims last month.)

Immediately after the mosque shootings, in which 51 were killed and dozens injured, a dazed public rode a wave of emotions. Unity was anchored to anguish, while sympathy seemed stained with sorrow. It must have made sense to Lees-Galloway to tap into the country’s compassionate mood and consider extending ACC-administered payments to those mentally harmed by the attack. After all, it was already making payments to the physically injured.

On March 20, five full days and just three working days after the attack, the advice came through from ACC and the Business Ministry, MBIE. Lees-Galloway was given options, possible risks were flagged, and rough costs estimated.

“Hats off to them,” says Wellington lawyer Warren Forster, an ACC expert who used to represent some of the terror attack victims’ families. “It’s a pretty impressive piece of policy work to do in three days.”

According to the paper, an estimated 200 people directly witnessed the shooting and, potentially, another 480 people are family members of those injured of killed in the attack. The rough cost of Lees-Galloway’s planned ACC extension was put at $1.4 million up to July 1, and up to $35 million over the life of the scheme.

“Given the unique nature of the attack – which, unlike many traumatic events, constitutes a deliberate attempt to terrorise and inflict mental harm, as well as physical harm, on a large number of people – a temporary limited expansion of the services ACC provides may be desirable,” says the paper, released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act.

…the reason why the ACC funded proposal was rejected was in favour of a much cheaper version run by MSD, despite MSD admitting that their toxic culture isn’t structured to actually help anyone…

MSD advice to Lees-Galloway, included in the April Cabinet paper, said it “does not consider that a payment through the welfare system … is a feasible option”. It added: “Design and approval processes would take time and it is questionable whether MSD could operationally deliver such support.”

…so MSD acknowledged that they are really just a stick to beat the vulnerable with and that actually being proactive and helping victims with mental anguish is the last thing they do.

It is shocking to think that while we will spend $208million on a gun buy back program, we won’t spend $35 million to heal the 364 people who directly needed counselling because it might set a precedence that ACC help others without physical injury.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

That such a fear of precedence would trump our obligation to the survivors of the Christchurch atrocity is ugly.


  1. The whole extremely costly banning of semi-automatic assault rifles was obviously (to me at least) a knee jerk reaction to pander to outraged voters for what is actually an incredibly rare event. In other words, a total waste of money. Mental health, vulnerable/abused children, inequality, poverty etc while far more prevalent with far greater suffering and death (just compare suicide rates vs mass shootings stats), doesn’t outrage voters in a visceral way, hence it gets paid little more than lip service.

    • It is purely ideologically driven. Actual sense or god forbid knowledge doesn’t apply.
      Police have now banned solid core ammunition because its “armour piercing”, Leanne Dalziel wants to ban soft core ammunition because its too traumatic.
      So bullets are out now too.
      Newsflash, bullets make holes.
      Seems any muppet with no idea in a position of authority is making rules.
      I thought that was why we had a government but it appears police make the rules here. Health probably isn’t a priority for them.
      FYI Martyn if the buyback only cost $200 million you probably haven’t got them all.
      Most of what you are confiscating are .22 lever actions or pump actions that held more than 10 rounds. Or shotguns with 2 extra rounds.

      This money whatever it ends up being could have saved so many more lives spent elsewhere.
      The scary thing for me is that by being shown to vilify kiwis who are firearms owners, completely wrongly and not even offer fair value (and the aussies even told the PM exactly that), we are making NZ less safe both by those who will be non compliant, and those who no longer trust the police.
      This is how you create a grey market for guns, a very very bad thing.

    • Why do civilians need semi-automatic assault rifles? It’s a shame we didn’t learn from the Australian tragedy of Port Arthur, and ban them years ago. Why do you think Tarrant did it here, rather than in Australia? Answer: because he couldn’t have bought the guns legally in Aus. Rather than a kneejerk reaction, the move to ban semi-automatics quickly after the atrocity was a good move – if the Govt had delayed, the public mood for change could have cooled. Mind you, they need to go one better and require all firearms purchases to be registered.

      I don’t see anyone “vilifying” legitimate firearms owners. And nobody is stopping you owning regular rifles for hunting, or for use on the farm.

      • Tarrant is quoted as saying he chose his weapons and target to cause just this division.
        Australia is said to have an estimated gun grey market of 250000 since their confiscations, weapons used in such events as the Lindt cafe terrorist attack, and the mass shooting in Darwin recently.
        Don’t seek to be too like Australia.
        Scarily the aussies payed very good money for their “buy back” and still drove those guns underground. They have ongoing problems with armed gang violence now.
        Our police have gone one better and lied, vilified and now insulted gun owners by lowballing them for their confiscated guns.
        To top it off the cops are going to need gun owners onside when they want a gun registry. How many will enter the grey market? If you treat people like criminals and second class citizens a proportion will behave accordingly.
        If you are wondering I have never owned a semi auto -but yes they have a place for pest control or a rapid follow up shot to kill humanelyIMO Yes centre fire semi autos with detachable mags should have been more strictly controlled but just making them all E cat would have worked.
        The current “buyback” is sweeping up a bunch of unrelated guns which will cause all sorts of drama for innocent gun owners and cost millions to make us no or less safer.
        I will comply with any legal requirements to retain my gun license but reading the internet it’s looking increasingly likely that there are those that won’t.

        • Iv got nothing insightful to comment about on this really. Just want to say yeah, the coppers are pretty teetz rant they. Believe it or not Iv got a lot of aroha for you on that one. Y’know I knew there would at least be logistical issues and Iv seen a few Facebook lives of cops surrounding suspected gun owners. I just wanted to be honest with you that when I was saying ban the machine guns that I knew the system was unprepared for the policy but I shoved that stick in high gear anyway. And with a bit of luck mass murder will be a distant memory.

          • Thanks Sam
            The buyback doesn’t affect me directly, I’m waiting on the next round of punishment.

      • I would have gone for introducing a far more rigorous background check for gun owners (including current licence holders), combined with a working gun registration system (similar to cars) – so that the police know who owns and where every single gun is supposed to be (and if it isn’t during random inspections you either get your guns taken off you and/or a big fine). Buying multiple guns and large amounts of ammo over a short period would obviously immediately raise red flags, and police automatically notified. I would also have put semi-auto assault rifles back onto the Category E licence where they used to be and belong.
        But that sort of considered legislation is far too sensible for this Government.

    • @ N. That’s what I think too.
      You write:
      ” In other words, a total waste of money. ”
      Unless, of course, you’re one of the politician’s who gets voted back in on the strength of that knee jerk reaction? Then? Ka ching!
      I’d also ask. Was the murderous rampage of a madman too good an opportunity to miss to disarm as lot quickly and without a word of dissent, because who could argue FOR guns after that? Was that, in fact, the reason behind the murderous gun nut being so able to blithely slip past some of the best intelligence gathering systems in the world?
      My understanding is the aforementioned murderous gun nut was mouthing off at a gun range in Milton and he was so mouthy, he alarmed a hunter and one time soldier there who reported him to the cops? And yet? He still made it up to the Ch Ch mosque with all his guns and ammo, no doubt in the boot of his car.
      And now? Only the police and the military have such terrible weapons and they’re still answerable to a neo liberal elite * while we head into a looming global warming catastrophe as other, foreign, super riche neoliberal elite will certainly be eying up AO/NZ.

      ACC must be dissolved and our funds paid back into public health.
      ACC is fucked. It’s sooo fucked. Everything about ACC is twisted and distorted. ACC twists and turns and uses weasel words and does all it can to set people up to fail to get coverage. And it’s expensive.
      * By ‘neoliberal elite’ I mean politically sanitised criminals, just like ours.
      The Italian mafia must be in awe at, and inspired by, our cadre of political swine.

    • All forms of mental health assistance in this country are shockingly bad. My partner has been referred twice in the last 2 weeks for postnatal depression and we have not heard a peep from anyone.

  2. Why we don’t vote for achievers, by their millions of dollars, like America. Our representatives, like Lees-Galloway, reflect our feelings.

  3. With regards to the ongoing mental suffering, millions was raised in donations and given to organisations like victim support… but apparently there have been questions on how that money is being distributed. Only some of the victims seem to be qualifying for help.

    • Yes SAVENZ you are so right and thank you for raising this issue because I have some questions:

      1. Who is Victim Support to decide how to distribute the millions of dollars raised for the victims and those traumatised by this dreadful act of terrorism?

      2. What are the qualifications of these people to determine and quantify psychological harm?

      3. What was the model they used to categorise the types of victim and the amounts they receive and who drew up that model?

      4. Did Victim Support keep any of those millions for “administration costs” as they are always referred to and if so how much and why?

      5. Who oversaw and authorised the categorisation and distribution of the millions?

      6. Will Victim Support be called to account on this?

      Victim Support’s approach to the distribution of money raised specifically for the victims of this horrific crime is not only despicable but also it probably re-traumatised the families of the victims and those who witnessed the events.

      The processes adopted by this organisation to categorise the victims and quantify the amounts of money distributed need to be properly audited or investigated.

  4. ACC another fucked up government organisation needs to be sorted
    PTSDisorder should be covered

  5. With regards to guns- this headline is unbelievable.

    “NZ firearms licences granted to 639 people with criminal convictions in Australia”

    “Of those, 37 went on to commit firearms crimes, including two homicides”


    Unbelievable that more checks are not given for gun licences and gun licences are given out like candy to former criminals, and nothing more was done with those appalling statistics!

    Having a gun is NOT a right for any NZer it should be earned, and in particular holiday makers and new residents who can’t provide enough information should not be given out firearm licences, in fact why should they have them in the first place!

    We shouldn’t be going in the US direction of crazy gun laws with every man and his dog touting a gun!

    The government are only just twigging now that 50% of the visa applications to NZ are fake and my guess it is probably higher as there is so much profit and encouragement of criminals to come here by bovine officials from immigration to gun controls.

    The Christchurch massacre is increasingly looking a lot more preventable had there had been a bit more vigour with both Laissez-faire immigration to anyone from OZ (not reciprocated by OZ) and ‘relaxed’ gun licensing!

    They managed to deport the yobo’s from Britain who only did some petty shoplifting and left a bit of rubbish, but apparently those who are involved in some serious shit here, are just left to execute their plans including hate crimes, sexual crimes, drug crimes, human trafficking, labour trafficking, dishonesty and frauds and crimes without even getting any attention (and then being grated compassionate leave to stay in NZ while in jail).

    NZ has become dysfunctional in it’s laws and only able to focus on the trivial because the big picture is too taxing to bother for officials to do anything about from banks to criminals (both petty and serious) migrating and holidaying here.

    • This is what (kiwi) gun licence holders and the vilified Mike Loader have been saying for years.
      The Police did nothing.
      Please watch: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=mGu7oC-n0ns

      Calls to ban large capacity magazines also. Nothing done.

      The gun ban instigated by police instead ( which captures by far more unrelated firearms than it does military style semi autos) attempts to cover police abject failure by restricting freedoms of actual responsible kiwis.
      Do you begin to see why people are annoyed?

  6. It’s because New Zealand is a poor country.

    Low productivity, low wages, low levels of capital in businesses (but some of the highest house prices in the world so our home-owners feel great…).

    This is what you do as a nation when you are poor. Just like Pharmac spending, and nurse pay levels,…..

    (Fees-Free study doesn’t help.)

  7. Physical injuries are finite. Mental suffering is not. That, I suggest, is why the distinction is made in the legislation and regulations governing ACC. When funding is finite, it is unrealistic to expect the state to underwrite the full cost of healing mental injury to those not physically affected.
    An old friend of mine, a very dear soul, was gunned down in the Al Noor massacre. Barely a day goes by when I do not think of what happened to her. So how to distinguish between the impact upon myself and scores of others in the community, and the impact on those most directly affected, her husband, children and grandchildren?
    One would wish those most directly affected to be compensated in any way possible, including financial compensation if that would be of help to them.
    But perhaps that responsibility needs to be taken up by institutions other than ACC. The social welfare system should have a role. So should friends, neighbours and people of good will everywhere.
    I can’t speak for the state agencies, but I know for a fact that individuals and community organisations are doing a lot to help the victims of the Al Noor massacre and their families.
    The real and most pressing obligation of the state is to tell the truth about this massacre and to change the political climate which made it possible or, indeed, almost inevitable. We have yet to see that happen.

  8. It’s got nothing to do with the money. The cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions ACC handles every year. It’s unconscionable how ACC can get away with the level of surpluses it creates year on year. It’s a morally bankrupt agency.

    The real reason is that this government has buckled to ACC’s fearmongering over what they say extending the scheme to the victims will mean in terms of basic principles. ACC would have scared the government into believing that such a move would “strike at the very basis of the ACC scheme” and that “it would prompt all sorts of groups arguing why they should be covered”.

    The ACC scheme was never intended to exclude the wide range of situations where cover is regularly refused. The recommendations in the Woodhouse Report have never been fully adopted and were in fact prevented from being implemented by a change of government in 1975.

    There’s currently a lot of pressure on ACC and on the government to get things sorted out. This latest decision, while huge from a practical point of view, merely reflects what the scheme was always meant to cover, but sends sends a strong message. The Human Rights Review Tribunal has cottoned on to how ACC legislation is full of discriminatory provisions and is beginning to say so.

    Hopefully positive changes are around the corner, but it’s unfortunate this government has chosen the wrong side to support. No surprises of course because it’s just more of the same from them – to say Labour is transformational is an oxymoron. NZers are supportive of a comprehensive ACC scheme. Labour is too fearful or too stupid to see this. It’s a shame how easily they regard an opportunity for real change as a threat to the numbers.

  9. This should send New Zealand into a state of outrage (but it won’t).

    PTSD is actually caused by a stroke – psychiatry knows this; the research is irrefutable.

    The problem of trauma for sufferers is immense and utterly disabling. It does not go away due to time alone. It requires careful, focused, extremely difficult work – and that work can take decades.

    To ignore trauma is utterly irresponsible from a private and public health perspective – especially the trauma of a terrorist attack.

    The government won’t help trauma victims because of – as Martyn pointed out – the precedent; namely government and businesses’ consolidation of power is based in the proliferation of mental harms, which are unaccountable due to their nature, as being beyond the reach of the legal system.

    Something must be done about this – not just for Christchurch victims, but for wider justice. I would absolutely support a march, petitions etc on this topic.

  10. ACC was designed for physical accidents not mental suffering. Mental health is very difficult to prove and open to abuse. Think of bad backs etc.

    If people want it then they need to be prepared to pay more ACC levy. Another 500 or 1000 per year.

    • Yes, bad backs, you’re not wrong there D S, it was that easy to rort that certain individuals I worked with in the 80/90s used to refer to it as annual leave.
      The mental suffering side would be extremely difficult to quantify in purely $ terms & be open ended, some would recover quickly others never.

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