In March 2016, Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy presented the First Independent Review of Intelligence and Security to Parliament.

The review focused on the legislative framework governing the agencies and their oversight regime.

Their central conclusion was that there should be a single, integrated and comprehensive Act clearly setting out how and why the agencies are constituted; how their intelligence and security activities are authorised; and their oversight.

In light of the growing complexity and sophistication of security threats, there was also an increasing need for intelligence and security agencies to work together and pool their expertise.

The Intelligence and Security Act 2017

On 28 March 2017 the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 gained Royal Accent. On 1 April 2017, the first provisions under the Act took effect. On 28 September 2017 further provisions under the Act came into force.

As recommended by the Reviewers, the overarching purpose of the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 is to protect New Zealand as a free, open and democratic society.

The Act puts in place a single legislative regime for the GCSB and the NZSIS, providing a single purpose and shared objectives and functions.

The Act allows the intelligence and security agencies to act as necessary to protect New Zealand and New Zealand interests, with appropriate limitations and robust oversight applying across all of the agencies’ activities.

The Act sets out the functions, powers and duties of the agencies and empowers them to contribute to their objectives while acting in accordance with New Zealand law and human rights obligations.

GCSB contributes to:

  • The protection of New Zealand’s national security
  • The international relations and well-being of New Zealand
  • The economic well-being of New Zealand.

GCSB do this by:

  • Providing protective security services, advice and assistance, including information assurance and cybersecurity activities
  • Collecting and analysing intelligence in accordance with the Government’s priorities
  • Co-operating with NZSIS and co-operating and providing advice and assistance to New Zealand Defence Force and New Zealand Police.

The GCSB continues to carry out regulatory functions under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

The GCSB is subject to all New Zealand law, although specific exemption provisions are contained in some legislation, such as the Privacy Act 1993, the Public Finance Act 1989, and the Radio Communications Act 1989. Other more general exemptions also exist, including in the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Public Records Act 2005.

Fact sheets and case studies highlighting key areas of the Act can be found on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website.