19 Feb 2023

NZ not yet taking any action over Chinese-made surveillance cameras

7:12 am on 19 February 2023
Many monitors produced by Hikvision, a Chinese manufacturer and the world's largest supplier of video surveillance products, are seen at local central business district with the landmark, Oriental Pearl Radio & Television Tower, as background, at the Bund, Shanghai, China, 28 November 2019. (Photo by Wang Gang / Imaginechina / Imaginechina via AFP)

File image. Photo: WANG GANG

New Zealand is not upping the ante against Chinese-made surveillance cameras despite moves in Australia to rip some out.

Australia's defence department and foreign ministry are removing CCTV cameras made by two suppliers over spyware fears, after an audit found more than 900 of them at government sites.

The UK and US also have bans of some kind.

The cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua are widespread in this country.

The government's main procurement unit said it had "not taken any decisions regarding specific companies".

Individual agencies were responsible for vetting products and suppliers on security grounds, it said.

Asked if this put the country out of step with its main security partners, the spy agency that handles communications, the GCSB, said the "intelligence community operates in accordance with priorities set by the government".

"We have a close and enduring relationship with our Five Eyes partners and share technical insights and intelligence with one another" but the country "makes its own decisions about maintaining national security", an intelligence community statement said.

For example, national security interests regarding public telecommunications, such as 5G, were regulated under the a 2013 telecommunications law that was country and product "agnostic", as were the Protective Security Requirements, it said.

Australia previously had a similar position - "vendor choice is a matter for individual government departments", an intelligence agency said in 2021 - but political pressure has been applied more recently to enact a ban, the Guardian reported.

The US and China are currently trading allegations of [https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-says-us-flew-more-than-10-high-altitude-balloons-over-chinese-airspace-2023-02-13/

spying on each other using surveillance balloons].

Authorities here said all agencies had to follow guidelines in the New Zealand Information Security Manual, and select products that complied.

The manual put first priority on product functionality, including security, and suitability, said the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB).

The rules required all departments to check the software systems thoroughly, it said.

The government procurement unit at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said each agency's national security assessments "are best made on a case-by-case basis".

The rules empowered agencies to "not enter contracts with providers that pose national security risks", it said.

"The government expects all agencies to undertake due diligence on such risks before entering a contract with any supplier - irrespective of their country of origin."

MBIE itself recently decided not to buy any more Hikvision cameras, citing human rights concerns about how camera technology was developed.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs