Securing Public Places: New Zealand’s Private Security Sector as a National Security Enabler

Author: Dynon, N.
Published in National Security Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2019

on minimum wages and working long hours.49 This is echoed by Moriarty, who charac­terises security in New Zealand as “a low margin business with no appetite for training beyond the basics… dumbed down through the process of having security companies compete over lower rates of pay per hour for contracts”. According to Thorburn, con­tinuing high rates of staff attrition:

are not a very good indicator that we’re doing things right… As long as it’s a minimum wage industry, the perception is always going to be that it is low entry, low skill, and attracts a low IQ individual.50

Public and police perception

Negative perceptions of the professionalism of private security officers are held by law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Tasman. According to the ASPI Special Re­port, national security planners and police “generally view the guarding sector as low-paid, entry-level employment that anyone can do with minimal training,” and because of this they have a perception that private security officers “aren’t valuable”.51 One se­curity manager interviewed for the ASPI Special Report goes so far as stating that the police “treat us like idiots.” Similarly, the NZSA’s Morrison observes that a dominant perception within New Zealand Police of private security officers is that they are “rea­sonably low skilled, there to provide a certain function and probably not beyond that.”52

Such negative perceptions are not helped by the fallout from the Southern Response controversy and resulting Report of the State Services Commission (SSC) Inquiry into the Use of External Security Consultants by Government Agencies, published 18 December 2018. Addressing public concern over the use of external consultants by government agencies to undertake intrusive activities, the report focused on government use of Thompson and Clark Investigations Ltd to conduct surveillance of individual insurance claimants. Although the report noted the “wide range of security camera and security guard providers that are properly engaged by government agencies,” the controversy nevertheless prompted many agencies to review their interactions with private security providers.53

Thirteen days prior to the release of the SSC inquiry report, New Zealand Police pub­lished the findings of an internal investigation conducted in light of public concerns that the SSC’s inquiry had not included Police due to its statutory independence. The report, Engagement of External Security Consultants, found overall Police engagement with external security consultants to be consistent with Police values and the New Zea­land Police Code of Conduct, albeit with isolated exceptions. Among its recommenda­tions, however, were that policy and training in the areas of managing conflicts of inter­est and maintaining professional distance be “amended to highlight the particular risks of interacting with external security consultants,” and that membership of government multi-agency groups formed to coordinate government responses to particular issues