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

be restricted to government agencies only. Such measures risk creating a climate that places the security industry at even greater arm’s length from government agencies than was previously the case.54

In terms of perception among the New Zealand public, the Police, along with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), New Zealand Customs and other government security and law enforcement agencies, enjoy positive reputations. This reflects international benchmarking, such as Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranked New Zealand’s public sector the second most least corrupt globally.55 Ac­cording to the New Zealand Defence Force Annual Report 2014, the results of an inde­pendent public opinion poll conducted on the NZDF showed that “New Zealanders continue to be favourable towards the NZDF”.56 In the Ministry of Justice’s 2014 New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey, 73% of respondents rated the Police as excellent/good, and 19% as fair. In the Police sponsored 2017-18 Citizens’ Satisfaction Survey, 68% of 9,000 respondents surveyed reported “full/quite a lot of trust and confidence” in Police, and 88% said Police staff were competent.57

In contrast, the involvement of the private security industry in providing services and solutions to law enforcement agencies and to the broader economy is not widely un­derstood or highly regarded. As a low-skilled, poorly paid, lightly-regulated and in­creasingly transient occupation, security guarding is generally perceived by society in unattractive terms. Public perceptions of the industry are disproportionately informed by negative stereotypes around its more public-facing roles: the ubiquitous static se­curity guard, crowd controller and bar security staff. According to Pepper, if security providers in New Zealand aren’t investing in these staff “and ensuring they’re properly trained for the job they’re doing, the public sees that.”58 ASIS NZ’s Thorburn notes that the archetypal security officer posted outside a financial institution:

… will quite often be of retirement age, will not even engage with people coming in and out of the client’s property, and at times seem to be asleep on their feet. That perception unfortunately is what gets carried across to other disciplines, such as patrol officers, alarm response officers, static officers for corporate/commercial buildings.59

With guarding constituting the ‘public face’ of the industry, there is also a lack of public awareness of the depth and breadth of the industry beyond guarding services (such as security consulting, video and electronic surveillance and access control, systems inte­gration, monitoring centres, GPS-based and autonomous security solutions, analytics, investigations and enterprise security risk management services).