Frequently asked questions & answers – Periodic review of the Intelligence and Security Act 2017

What is the purpose of the review?

The review is to determine whether improvements can be made to the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 (the Act) to ensure it continues to be effective, clear and fit for purpose.

The review will also consider relevant issues and recommendations raised in the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019.

The review’s full Terms of Reference can be found here.

Why is there a review now?

Section 235 of the Act requires that the Act and the intelligence and security agencies – the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – be reviewed every five to seven years. The Act was due to be reviewed from September 2022, but the review has been brought forward in response to issues raised by the Royal Commission.

Did the Royal Commission of Inquiry make recommendations about the Intelligence and Security Act?

The Royal Commission made specific recommendations to strengthen our intelligence and security legislation, these being:

  • Reviewing all legislation related to the counter-terrorism effort.
  • Requiring publication of and public submissions on the National Security and Intelligence Priorities and an annual “threatscape” report
  • Strengthening the role of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and
  • Adding a reporting requirement for direct access agreements that allow an intelligence and security agency to directly access certain databases.

Will the review consider the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation to establish a new national intelligence and security agency?

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is considering the Royal Commission’s recommendation to establish a new national intelligence and security agency as part of its review of the overarching national security policy settings. The reviewers of the Intelligence and Security Act will take note of that work as it develops.

Who is responsible for the review?

The review is being carried out by two reviewers, the Hon Sir Terence Arnold KNZM and Matanuku Mahuika. Dr Penelope Ridings MNZM is a special advisor to the review.

More information on the reviewers and special advisor can be found here

The Prime Minister appointed the reviewers and set the review’s terms of reference, in consultation with the Intelligence and Security Committee, a statutory committee made up of members of Parliament.

The Ministry of Justice is providing the secretariat and other support to the reviewers and special advisor. Public engagement was conducted through the Ministry of Justice, including on its consultation hub.

How does this review relate to previous reviews of the intelligence and security agencies?

In March 2016, Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy presented findings from their review of intelligence and security in New Zealand to Parliament. The Government accepted most of the recommendations and this resulted in the passage of the Intelligence and Security Act 2017, which put in place a single legislative regime for the NZSIS, GCSB, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Intelligence and Security Committee.

This 2022 review is not intended to replicate the scope of the 2016 review, or be a first principles review of the Act. The intent of this review is to understand what improvements need to be made, if any, so that the Act is clear, effective, and fit for purpose, as well as considering the relevant matters raised by the Royal Commission’s report.

This review will have particular regard to:

  • Whether the Act appropriately balances national, community and individual security with individual privacy and other rights
  • Whether the Act sufficiently enables and controls target discovery activity by the intelligence and security agencies
  • Whether the Act’s authorisation framework can be improved to better serve the purpose of the Act
  • Whether the Act adequately provides, and has appropriate protections and oversight in place, for collecting intelligence by both intelligence and security agencies, and
  • How the Act may best enable the intelligence and security agencies to appropriately and effectively cooperate and share information with New Zealand government agencies and other partners.

What progress has been made so far?

The Act was amended in 2021 so the review could begin sooner than the original statutory timeframe.

The review met the Government’s Protective Security Requirements for the handling of classified information. Security clearances were confirmed for the independent reviewers and special advisor.

On 2 March 2022, the Prime Minister notified in the New Zealand Gazette the appointment of Hon Sir Terence Arnold KNZM and Matanuku Mahuika to carry out the review, and the appointment of Dr Penelope Ridings MNZM as a special advisor to the review. The terms of reference were also notified.

From April-July 2022, the review carried out a comprehensive literature review and had preliminary meetings with the intelligence and security agencies and other government and non-government stakeholders, with a view to prepare for public engagement on specific topic areas.

The reviewers sought public submissions for the review from August-September 2022. This included a public survey seeking views on the extent of the agencies' powers, limits and controls on agencies, and public participation.

What are the next steps for the review?

A report is due to be delivered to the Intelligence and Security Committee by 20 December 2022.

After the Committee has considered the report, it must present the report to the House of Representatives.

The Government will then consider any recommendations in the report.