Pressure from allies behind spy spending boost - expert


New Zealand's spies have been given a major funding boost, most likely in response to pressure from our allies, according to an intelligence expert.

"I have a feeling that this Budget reflects not only our own concerns, but also those of our major intelligence partners," says intelligence consultant Dr Paul Buchanan.

"We are the primary collection country for the English-speaking Pacific, and you well know that we've been caught unawares, for example, of the coups in Fiji."

He says the NZSIS is recruiting human intelligence officers who will work well in places where it wants information.

"I know they're recruiting for example Asians, Middle Easterners or Kiwis that can pass the security abetting, and perhaps this is pushed by our allies," he says.

"I don't think that the threat environment in New Zealand, here at home, justifies this type of expenditure, unless our allies are pushing us to up the ante a bit because we're seen as dragging our feet."

Nearly $320 million has been allocated to New Zealand's intelligence agencies in the latest Budget, giving a major boost to the NZSIS and GCSB.

Pressure from allies behind spy spending boost - expert

Mr Finlayson the Budget money is going toward "significant staff recruitment and further extends the SIS's ability to respond to the threat from foreign terrorist fighters".

Mr Buchanan says this is interesting.

"Now let's think about this -- we've had no problem with foreign terrorist fighters. There's a lot of talk about it. There's talk about surveillance of 30 to 40 individuals. But we're surveilling them already, so I think actually this is a cover for an expansion of the SIS' foreign human intelligence collection capabilities."

He says the intelligence community's priorities will be revealed in their mid-year annual reports.

"That seems like a lot of money just to hire people. $178 million gets you a lot of people, but we don't need 5000 undercover agents, so even if they doubled it that still would leave a lot of money to do other things. So it'd be nice to get a little more on that breakdown of $178 million."