New Zealand Security Intelligence Service NZSIS spy agency spends more than $45,000 on rebrand

NZSIS Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge.
NZSIS Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge. Photo credit: Getty

New Zealand spy agency the Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) is under fire for spending more than $40,000 on an under the radar rebranding. 

Newshub can reveal the NZSIS spent $45,163 between 2018 and 2019 modernising its security clearance vetting process to make it more user-friendly for those going through it. 

ACT MP Nicole McKee, spokesperson for justice, wants to know why "tens of thousands of dollars was spent on branding for a secret agency" that many New Zealanders will never have anything to do with. 

"At a time of rising costs for New Zealanders, the Government should be trying to find ways to give the taxpayer a break, not commission new rebrands and renovations for Government departments."

Andrew Little, the Minister Responsible for the NZSIS, says the rebranding was necessary to bring the security vetting service up to modern standards. 

"The NZSIS has had a programme to improve the security clearance vetting process for people going through it. This includes replacing a clunky manual application system with an intuitive and secure online portal," he told Newshub. 

"People entering the security clearance vetting process will now receive updated supporting materials to help them understand the process and their responsibilities if they are granted a security clearance.

Andrew Little, the Minister Responsible for the NZSIS.
Andrew Little, the Minister Responsible for the NZSIS. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"The new system is being united under an identifiable brand to give assurance to those going through the process."

McKee says it might seem like a small amount of money, but all the costs add up. 

"ACT believes every cent that someone pays in taxes should be spent wisely. Kiwis work hard for their money and want to know it's going on things like health, education and law and order - not branding for a secret agency."

Security clearance is required when someone needs access to sensitive information. Once a Government department decides an employee needs a security clearance, it asks the NZSIS to undertake vetting and decide if the individual is suitable to hold security clearance. 

A spokesperson for the NZSIS told Newshub more than 25,000 people engage with this process every year, either as a candidate or as a referee, and it is the most common way members of the public would have any contact with the spy agency. 

ACT MP Nicole McKee.
ACT MP Nicole McKee. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"Security vetting can include a deep look into a candidate's background and it can require individuals to provide a large amount of sensitive, personal information," the spokesperson said. 

"The upgrade work we are doing is part of our response to feedback from those who have engaged with the vetting process. This feedback highlighted a need to upgrade the portal, which is more than 12 years old, to a more open, transparent customer experience, protecting the sensitive nature of the information provided."

The spokesperson said the work contributed to the redesign and technical upgrade of the online portal so that individuals could supply their personal information in a more "intuitive and user-friendly way".

"This is part of an extensive transformation programme of processes and systems within the NZ Security Vetting Unit to ensure that it delivers a quality service to those who have to engage with the security vetting process."

NZSIS has a dedicated team of 'Vetting Officers' whose sole job is to enquire into the background of candidates.