Records and Archives

Since 1919 a number of organisations have in turn been responsible for security intelligence matters in New Zealand. The records they created are now held by the NZSIS.

The information held in NZSIS archives comprises of reports and assessments relating to organisations and individuals that have been of security interest at various times. Additionally, there are administrative and operational files.

Members of the public often request information from the NZSIS under the Privacy Act 1993 and the Official Information Act 1982. In addition to meeting these requests where security and privacy considerations permit, the NZSIS is committed to the proactive release of early records judged to be of public interest.

To assist the proactive public release of records in NZSIS custody, the NZSIS consulted widely and adopted an archives policy in November 2003. This was launched by the Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of the NZSIS.

Public views are canvassed by the NZSIS to determine what records are of most interest, and all material destined for public release is first declassified. This can be a lengthy process, especially when it entails obtaining approval from overseas liaison partners for the release of material they have provided in confidence. Enduring security or privacy concerns sometimes preclude release.

The first records to be transferred from NZSIS custody to Archives New Zealand were Special Branch files relating to the 1951 waterfront dispute. These became available to the public on 27 March 2008. Next, the NZSIS archives release programme envisages the progressive transfer of files relating to the Second World War and early Cold War period.

As resources available for declassification are limited, and the NZSIS is obliged to give priority to requests made under the Privacy Act and the Official Information Act, it is not possible to give a precise timetable for the release of these files.

View an outline of the NZSIS archives release programme.

Records held by the NZSIS

1919 – 1941 New Zealand Police: security intelligence records
1941 – 1945 Security Intelligence Bureau (established by military; operating under Police control 1943 – 1945): all records
1945 – 1949 New Zealand Police: security intelligence records
1949 – 1956 New Zealand Police Special Branch: most records
1956 – 1969 New Zealand Security Service: all records
1969 to date New Zealand Security Intelligence Service: all records