Tauranga bomb threat politically motivated

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Parts of central Tauranga city in New Zealand were evacuated around lunchtime today after a man threatened to detonate a bomb unless he was allowed to speak to the Prime Minister, Helen Clark.

The man is said to have entered the Devonport Towers hotel at around 11:15 am. When hotel staff attempted to remove him, he claimed that his backpack was packed with explosives.

Police are negotiating with the man via telephone. Tauranga resident Erin Cornwall said that police have been called in from Auckland to help deal with the situation. It appears that the man is a foreign student who has a grievance related to the expiry of his residence permit.

Tauranga is one of the most hotly contested electorates in the New Zealand parliamentary general election to be held this Saturday. The result of the electorate voting for Tauranga will decide whether MP Winston Peters retains his long-held seat. If Peters loses Tauranga and his NZ First party fails to get 5% of the party vote, then NZ First will not be represented in the next parliament.

The Prime Minister has been informed of the situation, but has declined to speak to the man. She is currently in Auckland campaigning for the Labour Party.

In an ironic turn of events, Winston Peters, well known for his intolerant views on immigration, is reported to have offered to negotiate with the man.