7 Jun 2019

Insight: Chris Finlayson and Janet Reitman

From Insight, 8:10 am on 7 June 2019

In the aftermath of the mosque attacks in Christchurch, some people have been  asking if  the national security system is up to the task of protecting  New Zealanders.

Chris Finlayson says it is.

 He was the Minister responsible for the intelligence agencies, the  SIS and GCSB, in the National-led Government from 2014 till the 2017 election, and began a  four-year rebuild  that more than 200 million dollars is being ploughed into.

He says domestic terrorism was always on the radar.


The Minister responsible for the intelligence agencies now is Andrew Little.

He  says the national security system he inherited from Mr Finlayson is effective but the threat landscape has changed since 2016 - he mentions China as a bigger factor now.

Mr Little also says the system has been largely reactive, and not proactive enough.

"I have to say I take the view now, that we've got to make sure that the culture of responding to manifest threats doesn't become [one of] a  responding to catastrophes that have happened before we take meaningful action."

He says as the four-year rebuild comes to an end, the Government is considering what the next phase for developing the structure should be.

The 2019 Budget put another $50 million extra into the SIS and GCSB.

"Following on from the Royal Commission into the attacks we will consider what funding or support is required to ensure our security and intelligence services provide New Zealanders with the information and confidence they need," the Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in his Budget speech.


The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque attacks in Christchurch is charged with finding out if government agencies have been focusing their attention in the right places.

The Government says it awoke to the threat a year ago, because of overseas events, including attacks in the US.

But  American journalist Janet Reitman  warns that following the US lead is a very bad idea.

She has told the story for the New York Times magazine,  of a striking warning sounded by the Department of Homeland Security's  tiny domestic terrorism team  a decade ago

That was rejected - and she believes the fallout from that is felt to this day.