Time for a National Security Strategy

Author: Rothery, C.1

Published in National Security Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2019


Download full PDF version – Time for a National Security Strategy (377 KB)


The global environment is becoming more complex and aggressive, with numerous threats from, undesirable foreign influence, traditional, political and economic espionage, organised crime, bio-security; natural disasters, pandemics, and terrorism. New Zealand has experienced all of these. With this extensive, but by no means exhaustive list, the question must be asked, why then does New Zealand not have a national security strategy, one that focuses the nation’s resources on reducing these threats and risks? A national security strategy is not one that needs to give away all of the state’s secrets, it can simply be a framework for collaboration across the government on national security. It should be the basis for a joined up approach across government to crisis management and conflict. What New Zealand currently has is a collection of unrelated documents with varying levels of connectivity to national security – the only forward looking documents are those from the New Zealand Defence Force. New Zealand needs to adopt a forward looking strategic approach to national security and develop a national security strategy. This strategy needs to align the policies of different government agencies towards a cohesive national security framework that targets our most important threats, so that the harm they cause does not eventuate or is mitigated.

Keywords: New Zealand,  National Security Framework, Intelligence and Security, Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Counter-Terrorism, Cyber Security, Defence

The foundation of the New Zealand national security system is the National Security System Handbook 2015, a document more akin to a guide of what happens in the event of an emergency. No overarching strategic document exists that coordinates all the elements of state power towards a common goal of national security. New Zealand’s national security is a whole-of-government approach, yet there is no whole-of-government direction as to the delivery and development of security capabilities. This article will examine the state of the national security system, reviewing the current national security related documents and examining the nature of their linkages and connections. National security is an essential part of allowing the citizens of New Zealand the opportunity to go about their daily business free from fear. New Zealand needs a national security strategy, one that provides direction for the whole-

1 Chris Rothery is a Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University. Contact cdss@massey.ac.nz.