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

in most industrialised countries,34 with the average security officer-to-police officer ra­tio across the UK, Australia and New Zealand averaging around 2:1.

In the UK it is speculated that private security outnumbers police by a ratio as high as two-to-one, equating to a possible 300,000 employees.35 By comparison, in March 2018, there were 125,651 police officers in England and Wales (in 1979 there were around 110,000).36 Of Australia, Sarre and Prenzler note that “the security industry is growing at a faster rate than both the increasing growth in police numbers and the Australian population.” Consistent with the UK, they suggest that the industry personnel may out­number police by two-to-one.37 The authors of the ASPI Special Report estimate the to­tal number of guard and crowd control license holders to number more than 120,000 (from a total of 190,000 licenses given that many individuals hold licenses across mul­tiple classes). By comparison, they note that Australia possesses approximately 56,750 police and 58,060 permanent defence force personnel.

In 1996, New Zealand’s security industry was made up of 968 license-holding business­es (a 53 percent increase on 1986), 5,380 CoA holders (employees), and an estimated 1,600 illegal operators.38 According to Bradley, as of December 2016, 24,294 persons were holders of an individual license or CoA (each one covering any number of the eight licensing categories) – an over four-fold increase on the number 20 years previ­ously. By comparison, as of 30 June 2016, the New Zealand Police numbered 12,034 (9,004 sworn and 3,013 unsworn) members, and as of June 2017 the New Zealand De­fence Force totalled 11,900 active personnel.

In the case of Australia, the ASPI Special Report claims that the private security sector has – in some areas – resources and capabilities beyond those of government. “It has the bulk of personnel responsible for guarding assets and events and for providing an im­mediate response to an incident.”39 Both in Australia and New Zealand, the sector also has a comparative ability to ‘surge’ in response to unexpected demand. The larger secu­rity guarding and patrol providers, for example, maintain pools of temporary staff and networks of trusted sub-contractors for work that exceeds their permanent in-house capacity or geographic footprint.

On the spot in public spaces


In stadium-based terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 and Manchester in 2017, notes the ASPI Special Report, the interventions of security guards in denying entry to would-be bombers resulted in there being fewer fatalities than might have otherwise have been the case. In November 2018, when a deranged individual took to Melbourne’s Bourke Street with a gas cylinder-laden ute, a large knife, and an apparent intent to cause harm, three members of the public were randomly stabbed, including an on-duty SECU­REcorp security guard. It all happened so fast that the guard had no opportunity to defend himself against the initial blow. Had things been different and he’d had time to