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Central government bears the main responsibility for New Zealand’s national security. This is due to a combination of its primary responsibility for international relations, its ability to direct civil and military assets, the technical and operational capacity and capability at its disposal, its ability to legislate or appropriate substantial funding with urgency, as well as its ability to direct the coordination of activity when necessary.

This central government role involves an agency, or a group of agencies, protecting New Zealand through the delivery of core, business-as-usual services – such as border management and protection services delivered by the Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Customs Service, Aviation Security Service, and New Zealand Police.

In other situations, it involves multiple agencies acting together to respond to an emerging threat (such as serious political instability in the Pacific) or in response to an emergency (such as a major earthquake).

In all cases, it involves maintaining and investing in institutional risk reduction, readiness, response and recovery capabilities that are integrated and aligned across agencies and levels.

Beyond central government agencies, there are a wide range of organisations and stakeholders with important national security roles and responsibilities, including:

  • local government;
  • the private sector (such as lifeline utilities and infrastructure operators);
  • non-governmental organisations; and
  • international bodies (such as the Red Cross).

In the international domain, New Zealand also works very closely with:

  • foreign countries (for example, in relation to military deployments and humanitarian assistance),
  • regional organisations (such as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, Association of South East Asian Nations and Secretariat of the Pacific Community),
  • other international institutions (such as the United Nations).

Central government has two distinct roles in respect to national security:

  1. Maintain confidence in normal conditions to ensure that policy settings, state institutions, the regulatory environment and the allocation of resources promote confidence in New Zealand society and sustain growth;
  1. Provide leadership in crisis conditions to ensure that potential, imminent or actual disturbances to the usual functioning of society and the economy; or interruptions to critical supplies or services cause minimum impact and that a return to usual societal functions is achieved swiftly.

For more information download the National Security System Handbook (PDF, 1.11 MB)