The Government is preparing itself for potential requests by countries in Southeast Asia for assistance in fighting Islamic terrorists which could involve air surveillance or even deploying the SAS.

Defence Minister Mark Mitchell has confirmed to the Weekend Herald that the Government is seeking advice on what role New Zealand defence forces could play.

"I am revisiting looking at what our footprint is up there and what our policy is what we may need to do to change or adapt what is a constantly changing threat environment," Mitchell said.

He stressed that New Zealand would contribute only the request of a host country, such as the Philippines, which lost control of Marawi city in Mindanao in May to Islamic insurgents, reportedly fighting under the Isis flag.


Australia has already deployed P3 Orion surveillance flights to help the Philippines armed forces.

Asked if the SAS could be deployed, Mitchell said: "It is possible that we could receive a request but we haven't received one."

"There has been no official request come through for any sort of defence support whether it be SAS or search and surveillance P3 type capability but we just take every request on face value."

But he said the Philippines had big issues with securing the shipping channels which were very active with drugs, weapons, and human trafficking.

Mitchell said the United States was an important defence partner for New Zealand "and they will certainly continue to be important partners in terms of what we are dealing with in terms of this violent extremism starting to move down into our part of the world, into the Asia Pacific."

He was talking about the work of the frigate Te Kaha with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the Asia Pacific, which it joined to replace the USS Fitzgerald following a collision near Japan last month. It has just passed through the Philippine Sea.

The frigate Te Kaha is refuelled by the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Philippine Sea this week. Photo/ Supplied
The frigate Te Kaha is refuelled by the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Philippine Sea this week. Photo/ Supplied

He said Te Kaha's activities would have to be in line with New Zealand's existing policies.
"If the Nimitz was to go into an area that we wouldn't normally patrol or it doesn't fit in within our own policy then we would probably cut off and divert and see if there is something else they want us to do.

"If we were to get a request from a partner to take up a patrol or a tasking that wasn't inside our operational orders right now then I would take that up to Cabinet or the PM and get authority for that."

He said he was having a closer look at the Asia Pacific region.

"We have seen Abu Sayyaf who have become very active down in Mindanao and took control of Mindanao and we are seeing a lot more activity from these Islamic extremist groups."

He said the planning and focus was on "what we can do and how we can support and participate in making sure that this threat that is starting to emerge in the Asia Pacific region with violent extremism - how do we contribute, where does our role lie in that?"

"That is a body of work that is ongoing and happening at the moment."

Currently about 500 New Zealand Defence Force personnel are serving in 15 operations overseas, including 180 sailors on Te Kaha and about 230 in the Middle East where New Zealand and Australia are jointly training Iraqi forces to fight Isis.