20 Jul 2023

'Deep sorrow' - PM on Auckland shooting deaths, says no national security risk

12:25 pm on 20 July 2023

Police officers heard shots being fired as they arrived on the scene of a serious incident in downtown Auckland, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Once the incident had been contained by police, a visibly-upset Hipkins fronted media with the latest information.

At 7.23am this morning, Hipkins said a witness called police to report a man with a gun shooting in a building on lower Queen Street.

"At 7.34am, police arrived on the scene and the Armed Offenders Squad arrived four minutes later. It is with deep sorrow that I can confirm that two people have been killed," Hipkins said.

Hipkins said he understood those killed were civilians. He could not say whether they were construction workers at the site or other people going to work nearby.

"Police have also confirmed that the shooter is also dead," Hipkins said.

He did not have information on whether police killed the shooter.

At midday, police confirmed an officer had been injured, and four members of the public.

"The police officer was transported to hospital in a critical condition, but we can advise his condition has stabilised," relieving Auckland District Commander Acting Superintendent Sunny Patel said.

The four others had injuries ranging from moderate to critical.

"At least one of these people has self-presented to Auckland City Hospital with moderate injuries.

"While the situation and scene is still under active police management, we know that there may be more victims yet to make themselves known to police and these injury statuses may change."

According to St John, six patients have been treated and transported to hospital.

"Five patients have been transported to Auckland Hospital - one in a serious condition and four in moderate conditions and one other patient in a serious condition has been transported to Middlemore Hospital."

It was Hipkins' understanding, from advice received, that there was no identified political or ideological motivation for the shooting - therefore there was no national security risk, he said.

"The assessment from officials is that there is no national security risk. There is no change to New Zealand's national threat level," he said.

"This is the information that we are able to share so far. The offender was armed with a pump action shotgun. He moved through the building site, discharging the firearm as he went. Upon reaching the upper levels of the building, the man contained himself in an elevator, shots were fired and he was located a short time later."

Armed police stand behind a cordon in downtown Auckland following an active shooter situation on 20 July, 2023.

Photo: RNZ / Ziming Li

Hipkins said the Eagle helicopter was immediately dispatched and on route within three minutes of receiving the call.

Police were at the scene in 11 minutes, hearing gunshots as they arrived, he said.

"I want to acknowledge the bravery of New Zealand Police who walked directly into that.

"I want to thank the brave men and women of the New Zealand Police who ran into the gunfire, straight into harms way, in order to save the lives of others. These kinds of situations move fast and the actions of those who risk their lives to save others are nothing short of heroic," Hipkins said.

"I also want to acknowledge the ambulance first responders who were there quickly on the scene this morning," he said.

Hipkins said he was at the airport, getting ready to head to Hamilton this morning when he heard news of the unfolding incident.

"The first reports arrived not long after I had arrived at the airport, I tried to confirm as much information as I could whilst at the airport, made the decision to come back here to the Beehive so I could get a detailed briefing from the police.

"Obviously my first initial reaction was concern for anybody who was at risk.

"I know from my work with them as minister of police, the entire blue whānau feel this. In any incident like this when police are in harm's way, and where any police may have been injured, obviously that is a huge concern and that something that all New Zealanders will feel. We rely on our police, our front-line police to put themselves in harm's way to keep us safe and when any incident like this happens, I think we will all feel that. And we will all send our love and support to the New Zealand Police who are doing an amazing job."

Hipkins said it was still an ongoing police operation and there was limited further information he could provide.

Hipkins would be travelling to Auckland and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster was on his way to the scene.

Impact on FIFA World Cup

Hipkins said with the FIFA World Cup kicking of this evening, "there are a lot of eyes on Auckland".

The FIFA tournament would continue as planned and the government had spoke to organisers this morning, he said.

"I want to reiterate that there is no wider national security threat. This appears to be the actions of one individual," Hipkins said.

"The risk has been contained, New Zealand is welcoming people here. We are excited about hosting the FIFA World Cup. Obviously, this has been a very grim morning for us but we are committed to hosting this tournament, there is no ongoing risk here, the police have not identified any ongoing risk," he said.

"Aucklanders and those watching around the world can be assured the police have neutralised the threat and they are not seeking anybody else in relation to the incident. New Zealanders' safety, and the safety of our visitors, is our first priority."

There would be an increased police presence to provide reassurance, he said.

Hipkins had not yet had communication with other world leaders.

Minister for Sport Grant Robertson said he had spoken to the president and secretary-general of FIFA and they passed on condolences to those impacted by the incident, and to all Kiwis.

A number of teams who were staying in immediate area were all safe and sound, he said. As cordon closes in, they will go about their normal business today.

People associated with the tournament were in "pretty much all" hotels in the area, he said.

Hipkins said FIFA organisers were currently discussing how to best acknolwedge the incident at tonight's game.