The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior by French secret agents on July 10, 1985 stands out as New Zealand's worst experience of international terrorism.

Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira drowned on board the Greenpeace vessel as it sank at Marsden Wharf, in central Auckland. Colleagues of agents Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur had planted two limpet mines on the vessel's hull.

Operation Satanic, a plot by French intelligence and covert-action bureau the DGSE, was described by then-Prime Minister David Lange as a "sordid act of international state-backed terrorism" and involved French politicians at the highest level.

The shock bombing, which aimed to hobble Greenpeace's protests against nuclear tests in French Polynesia, caused international outrage. But New Zealand's hopes of a satisfactory resolution were dashed by France's importance as a trading partner and its refusal to adequately punish the perpetrators.

Other events may also qualify as terrorism, although they were not always aimed at New Zealanders.

For example, two Molotov cocktails were discovered on the driveway of the US Ambassador's home in Wellington on December 29, 1969. One of the bombs had exploded but caused no damage.

The second, a Coca-Cola bottle filled with petrol, had been left leaning against the garage next to the Ambassador's residence, and failed to ignite.

After the 1987 Fiji coup there was an attempted hijacking of Air New Zealand Flight 747 at Nadi. It was foiled when the navigator hit the hijacker over the head with a bottle of duty-free whiskey.

And in 1984, the Wellington Trades Hall bombing that killed caretaker Ernie Abbott was thought to be politically motivated, but the bomber was never found.

Despite the relative scarcity of terrorist events in New Zealand, there has long been surveillance of people and groups here and abroad by secret agencies.

A branch of the police handled national security until 1956, when the Security Service was established as a standalone body.

In 1969, it received a legislative base when the Government passed the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act.

The SIS, charged with protecting the country from "acts of espionage, sabotage, terrorism and subversion", has been co-opted by various politicians to investigate what they saw as internal threats of terrorism.

In 1981, then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon named anti-Springbok tour protesters as "terrorists" and the SIS monitored agitators.

It also gathered information on Labour MP and Agriculture Minister Colin Moyle in 1975.

More recently, the agency had to settle out of court with anti free-trade activist Aziz Choudry after it burgled his home in 1996.

It has also monitored radical Maori groups, including the NZ Armed Intervention Force, which has declared war on the Government.

The SIS has worked to keep protesters at bay during international events such as the Apec summit in September 1999.

Herald feature: Defence

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