Terrorism and violent extremism research funding cut by two-thirds

The government has slashed funding of research into terrorism and violent extremism, with the fledgling centre that carries out the research already having to cut back.

The research funding for the He Whenua Taurikura National Centre of Research Excellence – founded two years ago – was cut in last week’s Budget from $1.325m a year to just $500,000, a drop of almost two thirds.

The centre was started in 2022 after the Royal Commission into the mosque attacks found the country was largely blind to the threat of far-right extremists.

“It is a huge cut,” said centre director Professor Joanna Kidman of Victoria University.

“We were planning to be funding a lot of research on matters relating to the safety of people living here. Because the cuts are fairly severe we will have to really pull back our operations.”

The cuts amount to $3.3 million over four years.

‘It really does impact on our national safety’

New Zealand’s reliance on skewed intelligence from offshore prior to the March 2019 attacks was starkly shown up by a Royal Commission finding that out of more than 7500 reports to spy agencies in a three-month period, not a single one was about right-wing extremism.

Local research was needed into “causes” and “measures” for tackling extremism, the Royal Commission said.

The Federation of Islamic Associations pushed for this, and spokesperson Abdur Razzaq said overseas research was not going to work in New Zealand.

“So the Royal Commission put that in, and it’s been going very well, and now funding’s been reduced by more than half. It really does impact on our national safety.”

The research centre – run by five mostly part-time staff at Victoria University – had expected some impact from the public sector cutbacks and moved to protect the 26 masters and PHD scholarships it is currently funding.

But they would have a “much, much reduced capacity” next year, with less diversity of research, and some of their eight projects would have to go, Kidman told RNZ.

“We have really only just begun on the path to creating quality, credible research that will keep people safer, that will keep Muslim communities and other communities safe in New Zealand,” she said.

“Good quality research takes time to build, so, no, we haven’t had enough time to put that into practice as yet.”

The centre’s website said “quality research based on Aotearoa New Zealand experience is a key tool in preventing future events like March 15”.

‘Very short-sighted’ to cut funding

The centre’s funding comes through the National Security Group, which is part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

This is also the hub of the country’s national security strategy launched just last year, and the research cutback flew in the face of that, said Razzaq.

“It’s very short-sighted.

“National security is not something where you skimp on, and the Minister’s very much aware of it – look at the amount we’re putting on defence and so on and so forth.

“On one hand you’re giving money for equipment, on the other hand you’re taking away money from the research. It just doesn’t make sense.”

The National Security Group said the research centre’s governance board was considering the implications of the cuts on its future operating model.

Kidman said the centre felt for Muslim and other communities who had high hopes for building more research capacity.

RNZ has asked the Lead Coordination Minister for the Government’s Response to the Royal Commission Judith Collins if she has received any assurance that adequate research into terrorism and extremism will be able to continue under slashed budget.

Collins referred that to the National Security and Intelligence Minister Christopher Luxon.

His spokesperson said: “The government is committed to the safety and security of New Zealanders. Ongoing support for research on preventing and countering violent extremism remains important.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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