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New Zealand's intelligence agencies and units have existed, with some interruption, since World War II. At present, New Zealand's intelligence community has approximately 550 employees,[1] and has a combined budget of around NZ$145 million.

According to the New Zealand Government's website "New Zealand Intelligence Community", the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), and the National Assessments Bureau (NAB) comprise the three core members of the country's intelligence community. These three agencies are supported by intelligence units within other government agencies including the New Zealand Defence Force, the New Zealand Police, the New Zealand Customs Service, and Immigration New Zealand.[2]

New Zealand Intelligence Community

The three core members of the New Zealand Intelligence Community are:

Military Intelligence

Police Intelligence

The New Zealand Police and the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand both maintain criminal intelligence, financial intelligence, and national security intelligence capabilities.

Policy and Coordination


Budgets and Staff

Organisation Approximate budget Approximate staff
Government Communications Security Bureau NZ$95.2m 400[8]
Security Intelligence Service NZ$45.2m 300
National Assessments Bureau NZ$3.5m[9] 30
Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security NZ$1.8m? 32

(Budget figures from 2015 Budget appropriations for Intelligence and Security, and Treasury estimates in the 2006 Budget; staff figures from individual websites or from Securing our Nation's Safety, a December 2000 report by the DPMC)


Ministerial responsibility

The Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau, being considered government departments in their own right, each have a Minister responsible for them. By tradition, the Prime Minister takes both these portfolios directly. The National Assessments Bureau, as part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, is also under the Prime Minister's supervision — directly with regard to its intelligence functions, and indirectly (through the head of the department) for administrative purposes. The Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security and the Joint Geospatial Support Facility are the only ones not under the effective control of the Prime Minister — as part of the Defence Force they are subordinate to the Minister of Defence.

On 6 October 2014, Prime Minister John Key created a new ministerial portfolio called the Minister of National Security and Intelligence. The Minister of National Security and Intelligence will be responsible for setting national security and intelligence policy and legislation, and will also head a newly established Cabinet National Security Committee. The Prime Minister will assume the new portfolio while the Attorney General Christopher Finlayson will assume the portfolios of Minister Responsible for the GCSB and Minister in Charge of the NZSIS.[10][11] The convention of delegating the GCSB and NZSIS portfolios to ministers was also observed by subsequent prime ministers Bill English and Jacinda Ardern, though Ardern's government did not continue the standalone Cabinet National Security Committee.

Parliamentary scrutiny

The Intelligence and Security Committee is a committee of the Parliament of New Zealand, although it differs from an ordinary Select committee in that it is established directly by legislation. It consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, two further MPs nominated by the Prime Minister, and one further MP nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. The committee meets much more rarely than ordinary Select Committees, however — according to some claims, for less than an hour each year.[12][13]


The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is a retired judge who is appointed to supervise the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau, ensuring that they remain within the law. The Inspector-General presents an annual report to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.[13]


The operations, the organisation, and indeed, the existence of intelligence agencies in New Zealand has often been a source of controversy. While both major political parties (Labour and National) broadly support the current arrangements, there exists a movement which seeks an overhaul of the system, or even the outright abolition of New Zealand's intelligence agencies. The Green Party, for example, aims to abolish the GCSB and possibly the SIS — the functions of the former are deemed unnecessary and undesirable, while the functions of the latter are suggested as better performed by the Police.

New Zealand's intelligence agencies, particularly the SIS, have sometimes been accused of inappropriate activities. The cases of Bill Sutch, Aziz Choudry, and Ahmed Zaoui, for example, have all prompted claims that the SIS has violated individual rights. The extent to which the agencies are accountable to Parliament and to the public has also been questioned in some quarters.[12] Another common allegation, made by organisations such as the Green Party and the Anti-Bases Campaign, is that New Zealand's intelligence agencies are subordinated to their partner agencies in other countries, particularly the United States. The Green Party describes the Government Communications Security Bureau as working "for the benefit of American and British interests rather than for the benefit of New Zealand",[14] and the Anti-Bases Campaign calls them "simply outposts of American Intelligence".

Defenders of the intelligence agencies argue that they perform a necessary role, and that (in the words of former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer) "a robust legislative framework makes sure these agencies operate within the law". In 2006, the director of the GCSB, Warren Tucker, took the unprecedented step of publishing a general response to criticisms of his agency. The response, carried by national newspapers, strongly denied accusations that the GCSB was under the control of its foreign allies, saying that "the GCSB's actions have been and remain entirely consistent with, and subordinate to, the policies and interests of the New Zealand Government of the day". It defended New Zealand's connection with these foreign agencies, stating that "New Zealand enjoys immense benefits from its membership of this long-standing partnership", and similarly rejected allegations that the GCSB failed to keep the government properly informed about all of its operations.[15]

New Zealand's intelligence agencies, particularly the GCSB and NZSIS, drew criticism for failing to detect and prevent the Christchurch mosque shootings which occurred on 15 March 2019. In December 2020, a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque shootings criticised intelligence agencies for focusing on Islamic extremism at the expense of other threats including White supremacy and recommended creating a new agency focusing on counter-terrorism strategy.[16][17] In late March 2021, NZSIS Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge acknowledged that her agency had focused 100% of its investigations into Islamic extremism prior to the Christchurch mosque shootings and indicated that the NZSIS would be paying more attention to far right and white supremacist groups.[18][19]

See also


  1. ^ "Review of the agencies in the core New Zealand Intelligence Community (NZIC)" (PDF). July 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "About Us". New Zealand Intelligence Community. New Zealand Government. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Government Communications Security Bureau Annual Report for the Year ended 30 June 2012".
  4. ^ "Extra Funding for Counter Terrorism Efforts". 30 January 2002. Archived from the original on 30 January 2002. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  5. ^ [1] Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet overview of the Cabinet National Security Committee
  6. ^ "Committee Roles: DPMC". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  7. ^ "MBIE expands intelligence spy unit MI beyond immigration". Radio New Zealand. 4 October 2023. Archived from the original on 3 October 2023. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  8. ^ "Briefing to the Incoming Minister 2017" (PDF). Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  9. ^ Hartevelt, John (19 March 2010). "'External' spies turn focus on home front". Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  10. ^ "National Security and Intelligence role created". Scoop Media. New Zealand. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Outline of security portfolio responsibilities" (PDF). Scoop Media. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  12. ^ a b Locke, Keith (22 March 2006). "General Debate: Intelligence and Security Committee Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine". The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.
  13. ^ a b Mark Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, p.372
  14. ^ Graham, Kennedy (14 September 2005). "Security services policy". The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.
  15. ^ "GCSB responds". The Government Communications Security Bureau. Archived from the original on 27 February 2006.
  16. ^ Diaz, Jaclyn (8 December 2020). "New Zealand Finds Intelligence Lapses Leading To Last Year's Mosque Attacks". National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  17. ^ Perry, Nick (9 December 2020). "Report finds lapses ahead of New Zealand mosque attack". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 23 February 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  18. ^ O'Brien, Tova (24 March 2021). "NZSIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge can't promise spies are looking in right places, picking up obvious far-right threats". Newshub. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  19. ^ Manch, Thomas (24 March 2021). "Spies increasingly investigating 'white identity extremism', including organised extremist groups". Stuff. Archived from the original on 25 March 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.

Further reading