Key lights a fuse that may fire up terror

16:00, Nov 05 2014

It may not have been coincidence that John Key chose Guy Fawkes day to light a bonfire under New Zealand's complacency about being far removed from terrorism.

Key's landmark speech outlining New Zealand's national security risks paints a stark picture of the rising threat from within.

There are radicalised Islamic State sympathisers living and working among us, some of them actively discussing terrorist acts on New Zealand soil, Key told a Wellington audience.

They included those thwarted in their wish to take up arms in Syria with the Islamic State (Isis) and who now posed a threat to New Zealand's safety and security.

With the recent shooting at the Canadian Parliament still fresh in people's minds, few will quibble at Key's view that we can no longer rely on our place at the bottom of the world protecting us from such acts.

For the same reason the Government's measures to beef up passport laws in response to the threat are unlikely to be controversial. The changes include the power to cancel and suspend travel documents.

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But Key's subsequent admission that no-one has so far been arrested or charged with any crime raises more questions than it answers.

So too does the assessment of officials that the risk of terrorist attack in New Zealand remains unlikely, even while the prime minister spells out the nature of the emerging threat.

On the surface these two things seem like a contradiction.

The rise of Isis is more likely to be a convenient peg on which to hang beefed-up surveillance powers for the Security Intelligence Service which were probably in the wind anyway, given that its current legislation is decades old and out of touch with modern-day threats.

But that does not minimise the nature of the threat from Isis and its chilling use of social media to spread its "kill a Westerner" message.

That could be brought even closer to home if Isis makes specific threats to New Zealand after Key's announcement yesterday of a military contribution. That contribution is likely to be limited and confined to training Iraqi forces.

But Isis is unlikely to draw that distinction.

The Dominion Post