A wide-ranging review into New Zealand's intelligence agencies will be headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen and lawyer Dame Patsy Reddy.

"This will be an important and challenging review, and I'm pleased Sir Michael and Dame Patsy have agreed to lend their expertise to the task," acting Attorney-General Amy Adams said.

"Sir Michael is a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and has knowledge of national security issues. Dame Patsy has extensive governance experience and legal expertise."

Ms Adams said it was vital that New Zealanders had assurances that the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) were operating correctly.

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The first regular review of the agencies will examine the legislative framework governing them, and consider how they are placed to protect New Zealand's interests and security.

It will also determine if the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards to ensure the GCSB and SIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

The first review will begin next month, and be completed by the end of February next year. Future reviews will occur every five to seven years.

While in the Labour Government led by Helen Clark, Sir Michael was Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Attorney-General and Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.

Since retiring from Parliament in six years ago, he has served as deputy chair and chair of the NZ Post board.

Dame Patsy is a lawyer with more than 20 years of corporate governance experience, including as a non-executive director of Telecom, Air New Zealand and Sky City.

She is currently chair of the NZ Film Commission, and was previously a partner in law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, and has lectured in law at Victoria University of Wellington.

Both the domestic intelligence agency the SIS and GCSB, with its foreign intelligence mandate, have come under intense scrutiny after a series of revelations and allegations.

Most recently, Cheryl Gwyn, who as the Inspector General of Security and Intelligence and Security is responsible for independent oversight of both agencies, announced an inquiry into the activities of the GCSB.

Ms Gwyn's ongoing investigation followed a series of stories by the Herald and US news site The Intercept that outlined how the GCSB conducts surveillance on Pacific nations.

The Green Party had complained to Ms Gwyn that the GCSB had broken the law by spying on Kiwis holidaying, living and working in the Pacific.