The legislative framework for the NZIC is contained in the Intelligence and Security Act 2017.

The purpose of the GCSB and NZSIS’ governing legislation, the Intelligence and Security Act 2017, is to protect New Zealand as a free, open and democratic society. 

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.

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

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 the following objectives while acting in accordance with New Zealand law and human rights obligations:

  • The protection of New Zealand’s national security
  • The international relations and wellbeing of New Zealand
  • The economic wellbeing of New Zealand.

The agencies’ shared key functions are:

  • Intelligence collection and analysis
  • Protective security services, advice and assistance (including the GCSB’s information assurance and cybersecurity activities, which are elaborated on further in section 12)
  • Co-operation with the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Defence Force to facilitate the performance of New Zealand Police and New Zealand Defence Force functions
  • Co-operation with other entities to respond to imminent threats to life and safety of certain persons.

The agencies will continue to carry other functions as conferred by or under other legislation e.g. the GCSB carries out regulatory functions under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013.

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

Previous legislation

Before the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 there were four separate Acts governing New Zealand’s core security and intelligence agencies, and their oversight mechanisms:

  • the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act 1969
  • the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003
  • the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996
  • the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996.

The Intelligence and Security Act 2017 requires that the Minister responsible for the intelligence and security agencies issue Ministerial Policy Statements in relation to the lawful activities of the agencies that set out any:

  • procedures of an intelligence and security agency for authorising the carrying out of an activity relating to a matter
  • protections that need to be in place in relation to the matter
  • restrictions in relation to the matter.

Each Ministerial Policy Statement sets out guiding principles that GCSB and NZSIS must apply when planning and carrying out these activities and identifies internal policies, procedures, consultation and training requirements in relation to each activity.

Ministerial Policy Statements can be found at right: