New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
Te Pā Whakamarumaru

Logo of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
Agency overview
Formed 1956[1]
Headquarters Defence House, 2–12 Aitken Street, Wellington
41°16′37″S 174°46′46″E / 41.276823°S 174.779439°E / -41.276823; 174.779439
Employees 200
Minister responsible
Agency executive

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS or SIS) (Māori: Te Pā Whakamarumaru) is New Zealand's main domestic and counter-intelligence intelligence agency.


The First National Government established the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service on 28 November 1956 as the New Zealand Security Service, aiming to counter perceived increased Soviet intelligence operations in Australia and New Zealand in the wake of the Petrov Affair of 1954, which had damaged Soviet-Australian relations. The New Zealand Security Service was modelled on the British domestic intelligence agency MI5 and its first Director of Security was Brigadier William Gilbert, a former New Zealand Army officer. The organization's existence remained a state secret until 1960.[2][3]

According to the journalist and author Graeme Hunt, domestic intelligence and counter-subversion prior to the establishment of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service was primary in the hands of the New Zealand Police Force (19191941; 19451949) and of the New Zealand Police Force Special Branch (19491956). Another predecessor to the NZSIS during the Second World War was the short-lived New Zealand Security Intelligence Bureau (SIB).[4] The SIB, modeled after the British MI5, was headed by Major Kenneth Folkes, a junior MI5 officer. The conman Syd Ross duped Major Folkes into believing that there was a "Nazi plot" in New Zealand. Due to this embarrassment, Prime Minister Peter Fraser dismissed Folkes in February 1943 and the SIB merged into the New Zealand Police. Following the end of World War II in 1945, the Police Force resumed responsibility for domestic intelligence.[5]

In 1969 the New Zealand Security Service was formally renamed the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service.[6] That same year the New Zealand Parliament passed an Act covering the agency's functions and responsibilities: the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act.[7] Parliament subsequently made various amendments to the Security Intelligence Act – the most controversial probably Rob Muldoon's 1977 amendment, which expanded the SIS's powers of monitoring considerably. The 1977 amendment saw sizeable protests outside Parliament.


As a civilian organisation, the Security Intelligence Service takes no part in the enforcement of security (although it has limited powers to intercept communications and search residences). Its role is intended to be advisory, providing the government with information on threats to national security or national interests. It also advises other government agencies about their own internal security measures, and is responsible for performing checks on government employees who require security clearance. The SIS is responsible for most of the government's counter-intelligence work.

The NZSIS is a civilian intelligence and security organisation. Its threefold roles are:

In 2007, it was reported that the SIS wished to expand its role into fighting organised crime.[9]


The SIS is based in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. It also has branches in Auckland and Christchurch. It has over 200 permanent staff,[10] somewhat less than the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)  New Zealand's other significant intelligence agency. With a 2015 budget of 50.6 million New Zealand dollars,[11] its budget is lower[12] than that of the GCSB. The SIS cooperates with several other Western intelligence agencies in the UKUSA Agreement including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the British MI5, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the United States' Central Intelligence Agency.[13]

The SIS is headed by the Director of Security, and is watched over by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Intelligence and Security Committee. The SIS itself reports to a Cabinet minister with responsibility for intelligence (traditionally the Prime Minister).

Many claim that extensive political and judicial oversight are necessary to keep agencies on task, and to ensure that limited intelligence-gathering resources are not wasted. Members of the public can report information of security concern to the NZSIS by telephone by calling 0800-SIS-224 (0800-747-224). Note that the New Zealand Police is responsible for the operational response to terrorism in New Zealand, and is the most appropriate government agency for the public to contact in the instance of an imminent threat to life or property.


The SIS is administered by a Director. As of 2014 the NZSIS has had seven directors:

Public profile

The SIS has become involved in a number of public incidents and controversies since its creation in 1956:

Access to records

Until a few years ago the NZSIS was very reluctant to release information either under the Privacy Act or the Official Information Act. However it has now adopted a much more open policy: individuals who apply for their files will be given extensive information, with only certain sensitive details (such as details of sources or information provided by overseas agencies) removed. In certain respects the SIS still fails to meet its obligations under the Privacy Act but in these cases there is a right of appeal to the Privacy Commissioner. The Privacy Act does not cover dead people but their files are available under the Official Information Act. The service is also required to release other information such as files on organisations but the service is reluctant to do so, citing the extensive research it allegedly has to carry out in order to provide this information. A simple letter to the Director is all that is required in order to obtain information.

See also

Further reading


  1. Michael King, Penguin History of New Zealand, p.429.
  2. Michael King, Penguin History of New Zealand, pp. 429, 431.
  3. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp.231-32.
  4. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp. 291-2.
  5. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp.140-44.
  6. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp. 242, 292.
  7. "New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act 1969 No 24 (as at 13 July 2011), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2011. The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service to which this Act applies is hereby declared to be the same Service as the Service known as the New Zealand Security Service which was established on 28 November 1956.
  8. NZSIS Official Website About Us, Index
  9. 'SIS head wants to tackle organised crime', Radio New Zealand news item.
  13. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp.289-90.
  14. "Statement by director of the SIS concerning Mr Ahmed Zaoui". The New Zealand Herald. 13 September 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  15. 'A Word From Afar: The Curious Case of Mr. Tucker', Scoop, Paul G. Buchanan, 11 February 2009, retrieved 30 December 2009.
  16. Hallel, Amir (2 October 2004). "At home with the Mossad men". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  17. Tan, Lincoln (15 December 2008). "Chief of police called in over spies". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  18. "Uni staff asked to spy on students". 3 News. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/28/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.