There are one or two "quite threatening individuals" under 24-hour surveillance in New Zealand because of their suspected links with Islamic State, Prime Minister John Key says.
He confirmed today there were about 40 individuals on the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) watchlist.
"One or two of them are quite threatening individuals but I hasten to say people should take some confidence from the fact that they're under 24-hour surveillance so their capacity to do a lot is limited," he said on Radio New Zealand.
But speaking to media this morning, Mr Key said those aren't the people he's worried about.
"In a way, my concerns are never about those people because they are actually being watched right around the clock. My concerns always are people that could undertake some sort of threat against New Zealanders but are not currently on our radar screen."
Asked whether there was any likelihood of a terrorist attack, he replied: "I think one or two of the people on the list want to, I don't think they will because of the level of surveillance they're under."
Mr Key says all those on the watchlist are on the periphery of Islamic State, potentially raising money or trying to join it.
Raising money for terrorist organisations is a crime, but Mr Key says authorities need firm evidence before anyone can be arrested and put in front of a court.
"The issue is people can go to court and make a case that we've somehow misinterpreted what they're doing. The authorities will act, but they will only act at a time when they're absolutely sure they can get a successful prosecution.
"A lot of these people aren't aware they're being monitored and ultimately if we bring that to their attention then who knows where that goes?"
Mr Key says the Government is "constantly reviewing" the people who are on the watchlist.
While there were around 40 on the list, that number could always change, "if there are more there are more".
Mr Key says none of those people face imminent prosecution.
Authorities weren't "confident enough at the moment in terms of what we see that we would absolutely be sure we could get them locked up for long enough".
"We could probably get them prosecuted under some breach of the law, but it might not be long enough relative to what we think, so it's better to carry on doing what we're doing."
Mr Key says there are no plans to increase New Zealand's commitment to the war against Islamic State.
There are about 140 troops and support personnel in Iraq training local forces and that's not going to change.
"I think it's quite a commitment, it costs quite a lot, it's a pretty decent contribution and it's recognised as such," he said.
3 News / NZN