The New Zealand Security Service was founded in 1956. Until then, apart from a brief period during the Second World War, national security had been handled by the Police.
Between 1956 and 1969, the Service existed without a legislative base.
Legislation in 1969 (the NZSIS Act):
- gave the Service a new name (the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service)
- recognised its existence in statute, and
- defined its role: to protect New Zealand from threats of espionage, sabotage and subversion.
Evolving nature of the Service’s tasks
Over the years, the specific tasks of the Service have changed. This is because of evolving perceptions of what is relevant to national security and how that concept should be defined.
In the NZSIS Act 1969 (section 2) “security” was defined in terms of espionage, sabotage and subversion.
The definition of security was amended to take account of international terrorism.
1996 and 1999
The definition of security was again amended in 1996, and then in 1999, to recognise changes in the international security environment since the 1970s. New situations have developed with new implications for New Zealand's security and well-being.
The 1996 and 1999 changes extended the role of the Service to include reference to factors which impact on New Zealand's international and economic well-being. When the NZSIS Act was amended in 1999, it confirmed that it was also a function of the Service to:
- make recommendations relevant to security relating to immigration and citizenship matters
- conduct enquiries and make appropriate recommendations as to whether particular individuals should be granted security clearances, and
- give advice on protective measures relevant to security.
The definition of security was further amended to be consistent with the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.
The Service is able to address a variety of new and emerging threats to New Zealand through intelligence gathering and by providing security advice and training. Along with other government departments, the Service now:
- contributes towards the meeting of national foreign intelligence requirements, and
- advises on wider security issues where these could impact on New Zealand interests.