Time for a National Security Strategy

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

or are controlled by five government ministries or departments: NZSIS, GCSB, MBIE, DPMC and the Minister of Broadcasting Communications and Digital Media. This wide framework aligns to the whole-of-government approach to security but it is cumbersome and a more effective system for the control of cyber-security could be developed.


In recent years there has been a flurry of documents released relating to defence. There was the Defence White Paper 2016, the Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018, and most recently the Defence Capability Plan 2019, all released against a backdrop of changes to the international environment and to align defence policy with the New Zealand government’s national security and foreign policy priorities. These documents, under different governments, articulated the role of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), the strategic environment and mapped out future capability investment for the NZDF. A positive aspect of these documents is that the Defence White Paper 2016 and the Strategic Policy Statement 2018 both discuss the seven overarching national strategic objectives listed in the NSS Handbook, demonstrating a rare link within New Zealand’s national security documents with central security policy.

The proceeding chapters of the Defence White Paper 2016, the Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018 and the Defence Capability Plan 2019 articulated the roles and tasks for the NZDF as well as detailing future capability development. According to James Rolfe, the purpose of a white paper should be to articulate policy based on significant changes to the environment and allow for capability development.18 However, what appears in the DWP 2016 is a list of current capabilities, a justification for their purchase and how they are employed. The Defence White Paper 2016 is therefore not the forward-looking document it should be. It discusses the emerging security threats to New Zealand with no connection to the future capabilities required by the NZDF to meet these new challenges. Damien Rogers argued that the Defence White Paper 2016 fails to consider the relationships between the State, economic and social factors that shape armed conflict and does not provide the necessary analysis for the major security challenges facing New Zealand.19 Likewise the Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018 is a continuation of the Defence White Paper 2016. It defines the NZDF’s capabilities, which have hardly changed since the DWP 2016 was released, and the intent of future capability development. The Defence Capability Plan 2019, is just a continuation of the previous two documents and provides some more detail on specific spending, however, it has toned down the aggressive rhetoric towards China and Russia. These documents appear to contain more of the same content, with no changes to the Cold War era structures or to capabilities of the NZDF to meet the changing threats to New Zealand national security.