The NZSIS has a mandate to protect New Zealand from activities within, or relating to New Zealand that:

  • are influenced by any foreign organisation or foreign person
  • are clandestine or deceptive or threaten the safety of any person, and
  • impact adversely on New Zealand's international or economic well-being.

Preventing the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Preventing Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

In order to protect its international reputation, New Zealand must uphold its counter-proliferation responsibilities in relation to the prevention of the spread or development of weapons of mass destruction.

Weapons of mass destruction refers to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, which have the capability to cause large-scale and indiscriminate death and/or damage to property, greater than can be achieved using conventional weapons (such as conventional explosives).

Proliferation is the spread or inadvertent supply of goods, technology or knowledge to entities seeking to develop WMD and their delivery systems. A wide range of seemingly benign industrial goods, technology and expertise can assist WMD programmes and would-be proliferators, who can be both state and non-state entities, and those who assist them for profit or ideology.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses a significant threat to regional and global security.

International response

New Zealand is a signatory to a number of international treaties that prohibit citizens and businesses contributing in any way to the development, manufacture and delivery of weapons of mass destruction. The obligations under these treaties extend to controls over the export of goods, knowledge and technologies that could be used in a weapons proliferation programme.

Three major international arms control treaties govern the global effort to prevent WMD proliferation:

  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
  • Chemical Weapons Convention
  • Biological Weapons Convention

International export control regimes work in support of these treaties to control trade in sensitive items and technologies of potential use in WMD programmes:

  • Nuclear Suppliers Group – nuclear and related dual-use items and technology
  • Australia Group – dual-use chemicals, biological agents and related manufacturing equipment
  • Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) – missile delivery systems and related technology
  • Wassenaar Arrangement – conventional weapons and sensitive dual-use items and technology

In addition to treaties, New Zealand is required to implement certain United Nations Security Council resolutions that contain non-proliferation obligations. New Zealand has also made non-binding, yet politically significant, commitments to control the export of strategic goods and services through its membership of informal non-proliferation arrangements. Consistent with its international non-proliferation obligations and commitments, the New Zealand Government seeks to prevent the transfer of scientific information and expertise that may be used off-shore in the development of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

There have been attempts to acquire New Zealand Science and Technology for WMD programmes or weapons delivery systems. New Zealand companies have also been targeted for their goods or knowledge by procurement entities acting on behalf of countries of known proliferation concern.

Suspicious advances

Some terrorist groups as well as countries of proliferation concern regularly attempt to obtain controlled goods, often via third parties, in the form of front companies and other intermediaries. To do this such individuals or entities may exhibit suspicious behaviour or activities, some of which are outlined below.

Exporter awareness

Exporters can assist the New Zealand Government’s counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism efforts by reporting to the NZSIS information concerning entities’ attempts to procure goods or technology that could be diverted to a WMD programmes. Examples of possible suspicious advances include the following:

  • an unconvincing explanation for why the items are required, in view of the customer’s normal business or the technical sophistication of the items
  • routine installation, training or maintenance services are declined
  • payment by cash or offers above the ticket price
  • the customer is new and you cannot substantiate the nature of their business
  • excessive requirements for confidentiality about final destinations, or customers, or specifications for items
  • the customer or end-user is a foreign military or government research body
  • a sale being cancelled but a short time later an identical order is received under a different name
  • the customer uses a generic email address rather than one related to the purported business
  • reluctance to offer information about the end-use of the item
  • a request that goods be transferred to a forwarding address in New Zealand or transhipment point overseas
  • reluctance to provide clear answers to commercial or technical questions which are normal in routine transactions
  • requests for unusual shipping, packaging or labelling arrangements
  • an installation site with strict security controls
  • requests for confidentiality about final destinations, customers or specifications of items
  • requests for additional equipment not normally associated with a particular item purchased (e.g. large quantities of spare parts), or conversely a lack of interest in parts that are usually associated with the product being ordered
  • the order itself is unusual in some way, e.g. the quantity or performance capabilities of the goods ordered significantly exceed, without satisfactory explanation, the amount or performance normally required for the stated end-use

Researcher and educator awareness

Researchers and tertiary institutions can assist the New Zealand Government’s counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism efforts by reporting entities’ attempts to obtain knowledge, training or research access that could be diverted to WMD programmes. Suspicious advances from nationals of countries suspected of WMD proliferation could include:

  • enquiries about enrolling as students for, or seeking employment on, WMD-relevant research projects or study courses
  • applications for work or training in industry areas with potential WMD applications
  • requests to attend conferences and seminars on sensitive topics
  • requests from unknown individuals, institutions and companies for help and advice in a specific area of technology and/or technical process
  • requests relating to matters on which scientists, experts, research institutes and laboratory staff etc. would not normally seek advice or information and for which unconvincing reasons or evasive explanations are given
  • suspicions that the requesting party does not possess the necessary expertise or familiarity to complete a particular project or contract
  • security arrangements which seem unusual, either too excessive or too lax, which demonstrate a lack of familiarity with normal practice

How you can help

In essence, please advise NZSIS if you are approached by any entity or individual you feel may not be engaged in legitimate activity, who could be contributing to the spread or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.

If you want advice or wish to report suspicious activities, please contact:

New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

Free Phone: 0800 SIS 224 (0800 747 224)

Use our Public Contribution Form to report information of security concern.