Questions have been raised about the make-up of a group being consulted on New Zealand's intelligence and security issues.

Journalist and author Nicky Hager and Ahmed Zaoui's lawyer Deborah Manning are among appointments to the new Intelligence and Security Reference Group.

New Zealand Herald investigative journalist David Fisher is also among the appointments.

National's spokesman for GCSB and NZSIS Gerry Brownlee said the appointments raised serious questions for Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn.

"The Inspector-General has said this group has been brought together to help her stand 'in the shoes of the public' but several members of her group are far from objective in their view of our intelligence relationships or, in some cases, the existence of intelligence services at all," Brownlee said in a statement.

"The Inspector-General needs to explain how this group was appointed. That they have been appointed and met with the Inspector-General before their appointment was made public is worrying given the values she is supposed to promote."

He questioned whether Gwyn discussed the appointments with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern before the first meeting and what statutory power she could cite for the appointments.

"Will this group have top secret clearance. If so, how can we be sure the information they will have access to will be secure. Will the Inspector-General be sharing intelligence with them Where will the line be drawn," Brownlee said.

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Announcing the group yesterday, Gwyn said the group "brings together a broad range of individuals and groups, all of whom have specific expertise and experience that in one way or another touches on the work of the Inspector-General's office."

They met for the first time in Wellington last week.

"The Inspector-General stands in the shoes of the public: we try to ask what the public would ask," Gwyn said in a statement.

"My office is relatively small, and the great breadth and diversity of experience among the members of the reference group will help us better ensure New Zealand's intelligence and security agencies act lawfully and properly."

The Inspector-General scrutinises whether New Zealand's intelligence and security agencies (the NZSIS and the GCSB) act lawfully and also whether reasonable New Zealanders would think their conduct was "right", or proper.


Hager said he would assume that Gwyn had appointed him because of his knowledge of the intelligence agencies and his work in holding them to account.

List of members:

Ben Creet - Issues manager, Internet NZ
Professor Rouben Azizian - Director, Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University
Dr Nicole Moreham - Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington
Dr Paul Buchanan - Director, 36th Parallel Assessments
David Fisher - Journalist, New Zealand Herald
John Ip - Senior Lecturer, Assistant Dean (Academic), Faculty of Law, University of Auckland
Nicky Hager - Journalist, author
Thomas Beagle - Chairman, NZ Council for Civil Liberties
Treasa Dunworth - Associate Professor, Public International Law, University of Auckland
Suzanne Snively - Chair, Transparency International
Deborah Manning – Barrister