In a half-deserted 1960s building in uptown Auckland, down a dilapidated ninth-storey corridor, a team of police officers scrutinise two walls covered in LCD monitors.
Across them is a constantly changing mosaic of city streets and landmarks, relaying in real-time the bustle of central Auckland's half-a-million residents.
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At the click of a button, senior sergeants, camera operators and intel analysts here have access to more than 5000 council-owned CCTV cameras.
In practical terms, the Auckland central police district command centre in Cook St is an "investigative tool" and extra set of eyes to assist front-line officers - not a substitute for them.
Acting Inspector Mark Clayton, who regularly oversees operations here, is keen to emphasise its function is not surveillance of the public.
"When we do monitor these cameras it is for specific events and specific reasons in a certain area," Clayton said.
"For us, it's not about monitoring these cameras constantly, it's about being able to respond to incidents that take place and our camera operators can do that with one phone call. It's for people's safety."
The command centre is perhaps the most advanced example of the growing reach of New Zealand's modern CCTV network.
Each year, local government CCTV networks expands by thousands of cameras - not to mention the many thousands more installed in private businesses.
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That expansion has yet to see the introduction of facial recognition CCTV technology in public cameras. Nations such as China have advanced this to the point where a single face can be identified among a crowd of tens of thousands.
Yet the use of facial recognition among private businesses is well underway.
In 2018, Foodstuffs had to defend its use of facial recognition technology to help combat shoplifters.
A Kiwi privacy expert says the adoption of such technology in New Zealand government agencies is only a matter of time.
For many New Zealanders, the growing use of CCTV enters our mind only when police release footage of an unsolved crime or a wanted criminal's exploits.
But if you venture into any New Zealand city street or suburban shopping strip, or drive on to a city highway, the odds are you're being recorded by someone's CCTV.
The recent trial for the man who murdered British backpacker Grace Millane illustrated how much CCTV footage is captured. The jury saw hours of footage of the pair on the night she was murdered, from the moment Millane left her central Auckland accommodation to when she walked out of the lift in the man's apartment building soon before she was strangled.
The man's movements that night - and in the hours and days after he killed Millane and buried her body in a shallow grave in West Auckland - were also captured on various cameras around the Auckland CBD.
The ever-growing CCTV numbers
In the past five years, the number of government and local-council-owned CCTV cameras has practically doubled across all major New Zealand cities, information provided to NZME under the Official Information Act shows.
In Auckland, the number of CCTV cameras constantly recording public streets, spaces and facilities has gone from 3140 in 2015 to 5486 cameras in mid-2019.
Wellington City Council's CCTV cameras have risen from 302 in 2015 to 563 in 2019. In 2010, Wellington City Council had a mere 90 CCTV cameras.
Hamilton City Council spent $571,000 between 2015 to 2018 increasing their CCTV from 227 to 386 cameras.
In Auckland, the cameras owned across Auckland Council (1921 cameras), Auckland Transport (2945) and the NZ Transport Agency (620), cost more than $2 million to operate every year, and $700-$1700 each to purchase.
Beyond the rise in camera numbers, there is a more striking aspect to the expanding capacity to monitor public spaces.
It is the integration and fluid coordination of those cameras between authorities, and the shared access to technology between council, law enforcement and transport agencies.
Infrastructure owners: Auckland Council, AT and NZTA
Auckland Transport owns the largest number of CCTV cameras across the Auckland region at 2945, and maintains they are designed only to manage traffic and pedestrian flows.
Its cameras are installed on council- and AT-owned property across roads, cycle lanes, motorways, bus and train stations, rail level crossings, AT carparks, park and rides, bus lanes and ferry terminals.
AT's general manager of parking services and compliance John Strawbridge says these cameras aren't used to record traffic infringements but "straight-out operations, keeping the city moving stuff".
Strawbridge says AT monitors and deals with about 1000 "flow" incidents a week identified by their cameras - from towing vehicles out of clearways to major breakdowns on the public transport network.
"It could be as simple as looking at a bus stop and being able to feed some information into the bus operators to get some extra buses on that service at peak," Strawbridge says.
"And real time, moving cars and pedestrians around incidents in the city. A perfect example of that of course would be the fire at SkyCity."
A new "transport operation centre" to monitor AT's CCTV network is in the final stages of refurbishment at Smales Farm in Takapuna, and is set to be completed by March 2020.
A team of six to eight AT staff will monitor their CCTV network, with a police senior sergeant also based at the centre from Monday to Friday in a "liaison role".
With no cameras of their own, police rely on AT and Auckland Council's CCTV infrastructure.
In their own Auckland central district control centre, police can watch AT's 2945 cameras in real time. But, for the most part, they can't record any of it.
AT's Strawbridge says the frequent police requests for access to its CCTV records are generally "straightforward", and granted "as the community would want us to".
However, there are specific criteria which police must apply for AT and the council's CCTV footage under the Privacy Act.
Strawbridge says police must satisfy an exemption to Principal 11 of the Privacy Act that states "an agency shall not disclose personal information to another agency, person or body unless the agency believes, on reasonable grounds, that an exception applies".
Strawbridge says AT has refused police access to their CCTV "a couple of times" for not providing enough information.
"They've got to be investigating a criminal offence, and if not, then we would not hand that over," Strawbridge said.
In such cases, AT would decline and require either a warrant, or a production order, for the footage.
The Smales Farm CCTV centre has been in the works for four years. Strawbridge stresses there will be no technological advancement associated with the CCTV cameras themselves.
He is adamant that facial recognition is not on the cards for AT.
"There are no new technologies going in with the centre. It's the same video-management platform and the same analytics we've always had, which we use for transport-related matters," Strawbridge said.
Some AT hot spots around the city that receive intense CCTV scrutiny include:
Viaduct Harbour Avenue - 55 cameras.
Britomart Train station - 103 cameras.
Downtown Carpark (Customs St) - 105 cameras.
Manukau Bus Interchange - 64 cameras.
Queen St - 28 cameras.
Infrastructure users and partners: police
While AT uses its CCTV network to facilitate transportation through Auckland, its cameras are simultaneously accessed by police.
Day to day, there are three main priorities for police: tracking persons of interest in real time across cameras, communicating with officers on the scene in real time, and searching recorded footage for evidence in criminal cases.
"The CBD is still a large place but we have the ability to utilise thousands of cameras to be able to track an offender," Acting Inspector Mark Clayton says.
"We've got camera operators here who are fantastic and can monitor someone throughout the city if required for specific investigations.
"Absolutely I can tell you this happens on a daily basis."
The request for CCTV evidence from the council and private business is usually smooth, and based on clear communication from police.
Of the plans for police's CCTV operation, Clayton is less sure.
The future location of Auckland central police District Command Centre is "a work in progress", he says.
Auckland City Police's headquarters on Cook St, its home since 1967, is gradually being cleared out and moved to buildings on College Hill in Freemans Bay. Whether the DCC will follow is yet unclear.
Regarding the use of facial recognition CCTV technology, Clayton is noncommittal.
"Not at this stage. I can't talk about the future," he said.
"I just know over the last couple of years the technology has improved vastly with the amount of cameras that we have, but also how clear those cameras are and the quality of that footage."
However, in 2015, Auckland Police's then superintendent Richard Chambers was far more ambitious, as he expressed a wish to see CCTV cameras moving into suburbia.
An official information response from police in 2015 revealed police documents showing an intent to meld cameras across the city into a cohesive and merged web of electronic eyes.
There was even exception made for evolving technology including "face recognition and licence plate recognition".
Clayton was open about being in favour of increasing the number of CCTV cameras as something that "enhances public safety".
"For the police, we respect very much the privacy of our citizens when we are conducting enquiries, and put CCTV footage out to the public via the media we have very specific privacy rules," Clayton said.
"It's very important to blur out faces as a priority, number plates, that kind of thing."
The eyes of private CCTV
The reach of council and government CCTV does not even touch on the multitude of private business cameras in most bars, restaurants and retail stores.
Viaduct Harbour Holdings, for example, owns the majority of land in downtown Auckland around the marina, and is part of the TRAMCO Kiwi property investment company with more than $1.8 billion in assets.
Viaduct Harbour owns and runs a series of CCTV cameras around the marina water's edge, surveyed by two security guards and overseen by a marina manager.
The company says it is "happy to assist" police with any requests for footage.
Imagery from Viaduct Harbour Holdings assisted police in a case of sexual assault in 2018.
A female jogger was dragged into bushes along the Auckland foreshore heritage walk, alongside the Northern motorway, at around 5am by a 33-year-old man before he strangled and sexually assaulted her.
After police requested access to their CCTV recordings for that day, Viaduct Harbour Holdings footage helped tracked the attacker's path from near Jacobs Ladder, east across the waterfront into the Auckland CBD.
The attacker was apprehended and eventually sent to prison.
Headquarters bar and restaurant owner Leo Molloy says one of the primary uses of his CCTV cameras during the festive season is to verify alcohol purchases disputed by his customers when they see their credit card history.
"At this time of year, when everyone's letting loose, customers will regularly go for an extra couple bottles of champagne in the moment," Molloy says.
"Then they'll come in weeks later once they've seen their statement and argue with us over the purchase because they don't remember it.
"We'll show them the footage to prove it."
And while New Zealand local and central government agencies are extremely cagey about admitting any plans to upgrade to facial-recognition CCTV technology, among private businesses, it's already in play.
In May 2018, Foodstuffs, which includes the New World and Pak'nSave brands, said it uses facial recognition technology in some North Island stores, but refused to say which ones.
Hooked up to cameras on business premises, Foodstuffs' technology stores biometric data that enables people's faces to be recognised when they return.
Privacy issues: facial recognition 'will come' to NZ CCTV
University of Auckland privacy expert Associate Professor Gehan Gunasekara says the central issue for CCTV cameras is where we draw the line around new uses and applications.
"It comes back to purposes. So city councils can look at their CCTV cameras, and the police can access them for law enforcement - well that's fine," Gunasekara says.
"But it's the thin edge of the wedge. Before long, someone like ACC might say 'oh we'd like to get a look at that because it might be useful for judging accidents'.
"And before you know it, insurance companies might want to have a look at it. Then you start going down a slippery slope where you're fudging the purposes the technology was put up for."
Gunasekara says assurances from councils and police that there are no plans to introduce facial-recognition technology into their CCTV network should not reassure people.
"I'm sure it will come [facial-recognition technology]. The question is whether the current cameras are capable of doing it if the software is introduced," Gunasekara says.
"That's the next step. The key thing is to have very clear policy guidelines around their use.
"At the moment, even if footage is stored, it's not identifying a specific individual.
"But if you have facial recognition you can then use that to make a log. You can say this person was at a particular place at a particular point in time, and potentially track a person's movements over time."
Gunasekara also points out the dual inhibiting and comforting effect a comprehensive CCTV network can have on citizens.
It can create a false sense of security, he says, in situations when cameras might not be monitored.
But, conversely, Gunasekara says: "There's a point where it becomes like China, where you have facial recognition, and everyone thinks about it all the time sort of thing. It can have a chilling effect on behaviour."
Backing up Gunasekara's concerns is the NZ Privacy Commission. A spokesperson for the commission said it received "regular complaints regarding the use of CCTV".
The complaints generally fell into three categories: People worried about their neighbours installing CCTV next door, employees concerned about employers overly monitoring them and people concerned they are being recorded on CCTV cameras installed on businesses near their homes.
"CCTV cameras can absolutely pose threats to individual privacy and have the potential to be misused. There are, however, legitimate uses pertaining to security, public safety and crime prevention," the Privacy Commission says.
For Gunasekara, the moral and legal use of CCTV all comes down to context.
"It's just a question of using a sledge hammer to kill a flea, kind of thing," he says
"I think you can make a good case for CCTV cameras in high-crime areas and so on.
"But to say you're going to have them on every street, every area - is that really necessary?"
What CCTV sees: A walk around the waterfront
Newstalk ZB reporter Daniel Walker walked through Auckland's viaduct and its bars to see how much of a typical night out is captured on closed-circuit cameras.
Standing atop tall white poles, CCTV cameras around Auckland viaduct remind me of the old adage — hidden in plain sight.
As a journalist, I consider myself a pretty observant person. But despite their prominent position, almost every camera had to be pointed out to me by someone who already knew where they were located.
It's not something you usually think about in the bustle of a balmy night out, but there are plenty of eyes in the sky in Auckland viaduct. Many sit in clusters of two or three atop the poles, or tucked away discreetly on bar ceilings.
After retrieving the footage of my walk from Princes Wharf to the western end of the viaduct basin, I saw that nearly every step of my night out had been captured by cameras in public spaces and bars.
Another adage is more commonly linked to CCTV: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. After talking to people who've spent many evenings working in one of Auckland's busiest nightlife spots, it's clear people do have things to hide — and CCTV certainly gives them something to fear.
First I stopped for a drink at Neptune Cafe & Bar. Owner Edward Paje had just clocked off after a busy night tending to a flood of customers from a just-docked cruise ship.
After I sat down with Paje, we talked for nearly half an hour about what had been caught on Neptune's cameras over his decades-long tenure at the bar.
People using paywave to buy with stolen credit cards. Huge brawls spilling up the wharf. A random stabbing of one of Neptune's waiters. Even the moments before a murder victim's body was dumped off the end of the wharf.
I heard a similar story when I moved on to the nearby Crab Shack. Manager Carrie Marshall told me CCTV footage had recently confirmed her suspicions she had a dishonest staff member.
She also said they noticed a customer who appeared to be scouting the premises, and after sending the footage to police, was told it was gang-related.
It's not just crime the cameras catch. Both Paje and Marshall said the cameras help them cool down customers who think they're being overcharged.
Marshall said it often happens when big groups dine together: "It's not any fault of their own, it's just sometimes they think someone's already paid [when they haven't]. And then we can say we've got the CCTV footage to show, as well as receipts."
As I left the busiest part of the viaduct to walk along the quieter residential strip, I found the cameras harder to ignore. With crowds of people around, the cameras feel less intrusive.
But with nothing but the sound of my own footsteps and the lapping waters of the Waitematā, it took longer to forget the lenses pointed at my back as I walked down the long waterfront paths.
Whatever your view on CCTV, if you're out in Auckland CBD, there's a good chance you're being watched.
-Additional reporting, Michael Allan