19 Jan 2015

Facial recognition technology 'needed' for Cup

12:55 pm on 19 January 2015

New Zealand needs to up its game with security technology at major sporting events such as the Cricket World Cup, a former stadium sponsorship manager says.

 Mt Eden Park Stadium. View from Mt Eden Summit

Eden Park Stadium. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Indian fans look at the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup trophy on display in Kolkata.

The 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup trophy on display in Kolkata. Photo: AFP

One million spectators are expected in Australia and New Zealand next month to watch 14 nations compete for the 2015 trophy.

Murray Stott told Morning Report there was a general lack of the latest digital security equipment, especially at Auckland's Eden Park.

Facial recognition allowed security to see who is coming into the grounds, he said, and it would be good to capture this intelligence at events like the Cricket World Cup so it could be shared with other countries and the police.

"If we don't have this digital facial-recognition entry system in most of our major centres, like stadia and convention centres, we will have to be deemed a soft target."

Australian terrorism expert Greg Barton agreed New Zealand should consider itself a soft target, and while there was talk of a greater police presence, intelligence-gathering was key.

"What's really important actually is more basic work of just monitoring communications between known groups and known individuals, looking for patterns of communication exchanges that indicate that something is being prepared."

However New Zealand 2015 World Cup chief executive Therese Walsh said she was comfortable with the measures being taken.

Ms Walsh told Morning Report spectators can expect high security and police presence, with thorough bag searches and random patdowns and metal scans, though such measures would not be overly intrusive.

The Sydney hostage siege and the deadly attacks in Paris had not changed the standard security measures put in place but there had been a lot of careful planning.

"This two years of contingency planning that we have been doing, which has taken into account those type of incidents that could occur, whether they be offshore or in New Zealand ... there is a range of scenarios that all of those agencies and our ourselves have worked through in terms of what might happen."

Prime Minister John Key is also confident New Zealand would provide a safe Cricket World Cup.

John Key

John Key Photo: AFP

Mr Key said international tournaments always carried potential risk but he doubted the security level of New Zealand would change during the cup.

All countries competeing were comfortable sending their teams to New Zealand.

"We can and will provide I think a very safe environment, but we have a responsibility both to the players and the supporters."

Fourteen countries are represented at the cup - 10 International Cricket Council members and four others - Scotland, Ireland, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.

UK meeting

Mr Key was speaking after his meeting with British prime minister David Cameron in London where the leaders discussed issues including security in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris 10 days ago.

He said New Zealand must not be naive about potential terror threats but its geographical isolation gave the country an advantage.

It was clear a small, potentially lethal group of people were susceptible to messages from Islamic State.

"We aren't and we can't be cut off or naive about the situation that we face but nor should be be panicked by it," said Mr Key.

"We know that there are some individuals that present a risk or a threat and we just need to do everything we can to monitor them and keep New Zealanders safe."

Mr Key said no one could say without a doubt that the attacks in Paris could have been prevented - and that worried him. New Zealand needed to take the situation seriously.

Attacks by three Islamists on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a kosher supermarket and a policewoman left 17 people dead in and around Paris over three days from 7 January.

The prime minister said he was not aware of any warrants being issued under new surveillance laws passed in December last year.

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