Foreign state interference persists in New Zealand

Attempts by some countries to interfere with New Zealand's democracy, economy, and civil society "are persistent," according to New Zealand Security Intelligence Service's (NZSIS) annual report.
A car with a New Zealand flag waits for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outside the Great Hall of the People during her visit in Beijing, China, April 1, 2019.
A car with a New Zealand flag waits for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outside the Great Hall of the People during her visit in Beijing, China, April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Attempts by some countries to interfere with New Zealand's democracy, economy and civil society "are persistent", according to New Zealand Security Intelligence Service's (NZSIS) annual report.

The report said it had identified increasingly aggressive activity from individuals seen as conducting intelligence and associated with a "small number of foreign states" that it did not name.

"These individuals pose an enduring threat to New Zealand's national security," the agency added in the report released this week, which covers the year ended June 2022.

During that period, NZSIS said it had investigated New Zealand-based people cultivating locals for intelligence purposes, collecting intelligence against the government, targeting New Zealanders with access to sensitive information, and interfering in the country's politics, private sector, and civil society.

"For some states, these activities are enduring and persistent," it said, though it added greater awareness of the issue had made it more challenging for countries to conduct interference activity.

New Zealand has in recent years censured China for its involvement in a global hacking spree in 2021 and Russia for its malicious cyber activity against Ukraine in 2022.

The NZSIS report said New Zealand also cannot take regional Pacific security for granted, because it had become an important theatre of geopolitical competition.

New Zealand has long been seen as the moderate, even absent, voice on China in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance with the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada.

But New Zealand's tone on both security and China's growing presence in the South Pacific toughened in the past year after China and the Solomon Islands struck a security pact.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Jamie Freed)

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