There is Russian intelligence activity in New Zealand, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has confirmed.
In answer to a question in Parliament today, Peters said: "The NZ SIS advise us it is aware of Russian intelligence activity in New Zealand and where it is seen, appropriate action is taken.
"I am advised by the NZ SIS, and so has the Prime Minister been, that there is no individual here in New Zealand that fits the profile of those being expelled by other countries and that is people within the embassies in other countries. If there were, we would have taken action a long time before Salisbury."
Peters said New Zealand's Five Eyes security partners were consulted.
"People in the Five Eyes have consulted with us on our decision, understand our decision, and did so before the decision was made."
Peters said New Zealand had been standing by its friends and allies overseas "from day one".
Speaking later, Peters said when people were perceived to be spying in New Zealand, the SIS and other security agencies would take action if they needed to.
"The NZ SIS told us that within the description that we're seeing being expelled offshore, there were none in the Russian Embassy in New Zealand that fitted that and we took that advice.
"That doesn't mean that with respect to other surveillance that's illegal, in terms of intelligence and espionage, that the SIS and agencies are not acting. Bear in mind, most of this surveillance or intelligence activity is taking place offshore but nevertheless could be against New Zealand."
Earlier, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that among other measures being considered was stopping New Zealand visas being issued to some people of Russian origin.
Ardern said she had asked Foreign Affairs and Trade officials about further measures New Zealand could take against Russia.
"For instance, around the issuing of visas for particular people of Russian origin who may be in some way inappropriate for travel to New Zealand. I'm awaiting that advice."
She said the fact there were no Russian spies did not mean New Zealand was not the subject of intelligence gathering by, for instance, attaches.
"People acting as spies do not declare themselves as such."
She rejected criticism from the Opposition that she had mishandled the issue.
"I would expect that the Opposition would do the same thing I have, that is, listen to the advice from the NZ SIS on whether or not we have any undeclared intelligence officers here.
"The advice was we didn't. That advice was verified by our partners. I had to act on that advice.
"New Zealand has done exactly the same thing as our partners, including Australia."
New Zealand is being called an international laughing stock after Ardern said there are no Russian spies at the embassy here to expel.
A total of 26 countries have reportedly expelled Russian envoys in the past few days, among them New Zealand's Five Eyes security partners Australia, Canada, the United States and Britain.
It comes after Britain's initial move to boot out 23 diplomats – a move that was matched by Russia.
Ardern said New Zealand was in step with its security partners on the issue.
"We've gone through the SIS to ensure we don't have any of those present in New Zealand. If we did, they would be expelled in the same way our partners have."
But security analyst Paul Buchanan said Ardern's statement about the lack of spies here was laughable.
"Unbelievably silly thing to say, and it has made New Zealand a laughing stock," he told RNZ National this morning.
He said not all of those who were expelled were spies.
"This was a symbolic gesture. This will reduce Russian intelligence collection capabilities in the targeted countries, but this is mostly about repudiating Russia's actions abroad.
"Certainly the [Russian] embassy has intelligence officials. They are known to the New Zealand authorities, and those are exactly the people that are being expelled in other countries."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website lists 17 diplomats and staff in the Russian Embassy based in Wellington, including Ambassador Valery Tereshchenko.
Buchanan said Ardern's comments would not compromise the daily intelligence sharing with other Five Eyes nations, but he expected that the Government would "wind up having to hastily expel somebody, just to keep up appearances".
After the Salisbury poison attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter, Ardern said New Zealand would no longer restart free trade talks with Russia - a promise Labour and New Zealand First had agreed to in their coalition deal.
New Zealand is a member of the so-called Five Eyes alliance, along with Canada, Australia, the US and Britain, which shares a range of intelligence.