Prime Minister John Key has unveiled plans to spend $22.2m from this month's Budget on a unit to battle cybercrime and online espionage.

Known as the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), the unit will "enable a significant advancement in the country's cyber security infrastructure", said Communications Minister Amy Adams today.

News of the unit was announced by Prime Minister John Key in a speech made in Auckland this morning to a cyber-security summit.

He said digital connectivity had become a vital piece of infrastructure for New Zealand business.

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Key said the Government had "worked hard to build a productive and competitive economy" and that cyber-attacks could bring this "to a screaming halt - or worse, bring it crashing down."

"There's no point in building a brand new house to then leave the front door unlocked," said Key.

CERT is described as "an organisation that receives cyber incident reports, tracks cyber security incidents or attacks, and provides advice and alerts to its customers on how to respond and prevent further attacks. CERTs also work closely with their international counterparts to prevent and respond to cybersecurity incidents, and address cybercrime."

Adams said CERT woulds be the central place for businesses and organisations to go to for help and information when they are experiencing cyber-attacks.

"It will help to protect critical infrastructure and the digital economy, and ensure New Zealanders can be secure, resilient and prosperous online.

"Cybercrime cost our economy $257 million last year and affected more than 856,000 New Zealanders. CERT is a core part of our Cyber Security Strategy and Action Plan, which I launched in December, and speaks to how seriously the National-led Government takes cyber security," said Adams.

CERT will initially be set up as a separate unit in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and is expected to be in operation in the first quarter of next year.