17 Mar 2019

Heavy police presence throughout NZ tomorrow - police

7:18 pm on 17 March 2019

A heavy police presence around the country tomorrow will ensure New Zealanders' safety after the Christchurch terror attacks, Police Commissioner Mike Bush says.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

At a press conference in Wellington, Mr Bush reiterated Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's statement that victims' bodies would begin to be returned to their families this evening, a process that would hopefully be completed by Wednesday.

"We have in excess of 200 police staff [in Christchurch] doing a number of roles.

"We have medical forensic staff, highly trained police staff, all working to enable the chief coroner to have this process commenced and completed as soon as possible out of respect for their loved ones."

He said he was working with top police on deployment, "to deploy them in a way that allows people to feel safe to go about their business".

He said he wanted to inform New Zealand about what would happen in the coming days, as a new week begins.

"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. So, you will be safe going about doing what you want to do tomorrow."

He addressed media about the police response time on Friday in Christchurch.

"I can tell you that within six minutes of police being called on 111 ... armed police staff were on the scene. Within 10 minutes the armed offenders' squad were on the scene and within 36 minutes we had that mobile offender in our custody.

"This was a very, very quick response. The people and the public should be assured that we train for this hoping that we never, ever have to respond."

Mr Bush said the investigation was ongoing, that it was confirmed the offender used a semi-automatic weapon, but that police were still working on figuring out who sold it to him.

Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha and Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall earlier held a press conference where they said they had been in consultation with the Muslim community about repatriating victims to their families.

There were religious ceremonies at Christchurch morgue in order for families to practise protocol when it came to the deceased, they said.