Review of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012

The Government is reviewing the Search and Surveillance Act 2012(external link) (the Act). The Act controls how Police and other law enforcement agencies can search people or property and carry out surveillance.

What does the Act cover?

The Act contains powers that enable government agencies to effectively monitor and enforce the law, along with safeguards against unjustified intrusions on individuals’ privacy.

There are over 80 different pieces of legislation(external link) that rely on powers under the Act for enforcement. Officials who exercise these powers (enforcement officers) include Police officers, animal welfare inspectors, fisheries inspectors, forestry officers, immigration officers, Inland Revenue officers, product safety officers and wildlife rangers.

The Act does not apply to the activities of the Government Communications Security Bureau or the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. Those agencies operate under the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 which is also being reviewed(external link).

Why are we reviewing the Act?

There are two drivers for the review.

First, the review is part of the Government’s response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on the Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019 (the Royal Commission). The Royal Commission recommended a review of all legislation relevant to the counter-terrorism effort (recommendation 18). The Act includes powers relevant to counter-terrorism. 

You can find the report of the Royal Commission here(external link).

Second, the Law Commission and the Ministry of Justice made recommendations to improve the Act in 2017.  The Government has not yet formally considered the recommendations. They will be considered as part of the review. 

The full report and details about the 2016/17 review(external link) can be found on the Law Commission's website. 

What will the review involve?

The review will take a phased approach. The first phase will focus on engagement and will provide an opportunity for people to share their views and lived experiences in a meaningful way. It will involve working with iwi, hapū, whānau and Māori communities and with ethnic, faith-based, youth, rainbow and other interested communities. This will take place over 2022.

The next phase will likely involve wider public engagement on any proposed reforms, drawing on what we have learned in the first phase.

How can I find out more?

Key documents setting out the Government’s approach to the review will be published on this page in the New Year alongside further information on public engagement.

In the meantime, please send any queries about the review to Andrew Hill, Policy Manager, Terrorism and Law Enforcement Stewardship Team in the Ministry’s policy group: andrew.hill@justice.govt.nz