Victims in isolation to face NZ shooter

Dozens of living victims of mass shooter Brenton Tarrant are in coronavirus isolation in New Zealand ahead of his sentencing.

Australian man Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty earlier this year to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of committing a terrorist act after his attacks on two Christchurch mosques in March 2019 which he sickeningly live-streamed on the internet.

It remains the worst single mass shooting event in the country's history.

The 29-year-old's sentence hearing is scheduled to begin on Monday, August 24 and is expected to take three days.

"But the hearing will take as long as is necessary," High Court Justice Cameron Mander said last month.

The minister in charge of the country's coronavirus managed isolation and quarantine, Megan Woods, on Thursday said there are 53 people currently isolated so they can attend court in person and 28 are New Zealand citizens or residents.

Ms Woods told Radio NZ 25 people needed an exemption to arrive in New Zealand from the United Kingdom, Turkey, Jordan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Fiji, Egypt, Singapore and Australia.

She said the list of countries made it "vitally important" that people were placed into managed isolation.

"Every person who arrives in New Zealand must be isolated from other people in New Zealand for a minimum period of 14 days," the health ministry states.

"This measure is key to preventing the transmission of COVID-19 into our communities."

Final health checks are carried out before people leave isolation facilities to confirm they have not tested positive for the coronavirus, are not a probable case, have a temperature below 38C and have no symptoms of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a woman at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a woman at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Ms Woods said there are 34 victims among the 53 and the remainder are family members or support people.

"We are aware that this group is coming in at a particularly traumatic time, so we're working with police who have liaison members with each of the families," she told RNZ.

"I think they're just incredibly pleased that in the middle of a global pandemic, where it is incredibly difficult to move around the world, that they have been able to travel here to New Zealand to be able to support their family members, many of whom are those who lost immediate family members."

The Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images
The Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

The Government in July announced it would be extending the border exemption criteria "to enable some offshore victims and support people of the Christchurch mosque attacks" to attend Tarrant's sentencing.

It noted limited commercial airline flights and quarantine requirements made it a "challenge".

"We want to support our valued Muslim brothers and sisters who were directly affected by this tragic event and understand that some who are now offshore do want to attend the sentencing," Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said in a statement.

"We have quickly established a process to allow victims and a family member or support person to come to New Zealand using new humanitarian grounds. This is within our intent for the use of this provision."

Expressions of interest were taken for up to two family members of those killed, one family member and one support person, or "those who were subject to an attempted murder in the attack" and a family member or support person to accompany them.

Mr Lees-Galloway said he understood the Ministry of Justice had been working with the court to enable victims who are overseas and unable to travel to view proceedings and read their victim impact statements remotely.

Financial assistance of up to $5000 for travel, meals and accommodation costs has also been made available to eligible victims by Victim Support.

Tarrant, from Grafton in northern New South Wales, fired his legal team earlier this year and intends to represent himself at the hearing.

Originally published as Victims in isolation to face NZ shooter