Time for a National Security Strategy

Author: Rothery, C.
Published in National Security Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2019

What is not present is a cohesive national security strategy, or any document that can be considered a central directive that provides the government’s intent on national security. Instead the strategies and policy documents of individual government agencies are relied on; these significantly differ and are not connected to each other in any cohesive manner. This is concerning since the approach to national security is a whole-of-government one.

Intelligence and Security

The documents and policies relating to the collection of intelligence in New Zealand are restricted to legislation and information on the intelligence agencies contained on their public websites. This is due to the confidential nature of their role in supporting national security. The responsibility of providing this information falls to the intelligence agencies, which in New Zealand are the Government Security and Communications Bureau (GCSB) and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS). The collection of intelligence is conducted covertly and through concealed methods, which in a free and democratic nation such as New Zealand presents a number of issues. The issue of balancing the requirement for effective intelligence gathering to support national security and the basic human right of freedom and liberty was addressed in Intelligence and Security in a Free Society: Report of the First Independent Review of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand conducted in 2015 by Hon Sir Michael Cullen, KNZM and Dame Patsy Reddy, DNZM. The review was called for after concerns were raised about the legislation that the GCSB and the NZSIS operated under.7 The review was primarily focused on the legislation of intelligence and security: however, it did make recommendations for changes to the role and function of the two organisations. As a result of the 2015 review into the intelligence and security legislation, new legislation was quickly released, amending many of the issues identified. The Intelligence and Security Act 2017 established a new legislative framework for the intelligence agencies to operate within and also ensured that the intelligence agencies performed in accordance with New Zealand law and all international human rights conventions.8 The 2017 Act remedied the barriers in previous legislation that prevented intelligence and security agencies sharing information with each other.9

Civil Defence and Emergency Management

The response to natural disaster, which is considered a threat to the population going about their daily business free from fear and want, falls to the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM). Two key documents outline its approach to emergency management: the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002, and the National CDEM Plan 2015. In the event of an emergency, such as an earthquake, weather event, or the failure of infrastructure, MCDEM will lead the national response and recovery efforts. It does this through working with local government and the regional CDEM Groups to ensure that the right resources and