The gatekeepers of pubs and clubs face tight controls under proposed laws that would rid the security industry of rogue operators and thugs with criminal convictions.
For the first time, bouncers would have to be trained and registered with the Ministry of Justice. The same rules would also extend to "crowd control" staff who patrol major events.
The security shake-up is included in Government proposals to amend a 33-year-old law governing security guards and private investigators.
The Government says the laws are outdated, do not reflect the current state of the industry or address public safety concerns.
The overhaul is also linked to upcoming "mega events" such as the Rowing World Cup in 2010, the Rugby World Cup the following year and the Cricket World Cup in 2015, where much of the security requirements are expected to be provided by private firms.
The security industry said the changes would raise standards by extending the licensing regime to other areas of security, such as crowd control and bouncers, make training mandatory and hike penalties for non-compliance.
Licensing will be extended to firms that hire out bouncers, bodyguards, people who respond to security alarms, security consultants and people working in the destruction of confidential documents.
The employees will need their own form of registration, a Certificate of Approval - which is involves a police background check - and be required to undergo training.
There would be harsher penalties for unlicensed firms and individuals - including a maximum $40,000 fine for an individual working without a licence and $60,000 for a company.
An enforcement unit under the Ministry of Justice would be set up to investigate and prosecute unlicensed operators.
There are also planned changes around the work of private investigators. Currently, with rare exception, PIs may not take photographs or record any person without their consent, but there are proposed exemptions.
They would be in cases where the subject is involved in a crime punishable by prison, or an arrest warrant has been issued and the information would help a court.
New Zealand First MP Ron Mark has been pushing for the changes for years and believed there was a will in government to see it happen.
Mr Mark has exposed some embarrassing Government decisions around security, including revelations that guards contracted to Wellington police had convictions for rape, assault and dishonesty.
Last week he revealed the firm that hired the guards was also the preferred supplier of staff to the Joint Force Headquarters, a high security facility in Wellington.
Mr Mark said the growth of the security industry raised issues around protecting the public from substandard operators who failed to abide by the industry's professional standards and codes of conduct.
He said there were many professional security firms but some people were operating outside the rules.
It was "astounding" there had been deaths involving bouncers and cases of patrons, including women, being assaulted, he said.
"In that murky, mucky world that some clubs, bars, businesses tend to operate in, when they use bouncers of questionable character, the only thing New Zealand First was able to conclude was that it was time to clean up the town."
Mr Mark is not only concerned about the clubbers and drinkers.
"With the large number of people operating in the industry who are unlicensed ... it was of concern to us to hear reports of people knocking on the doors of elderly people, touting themselves as security consultants, asking to be allowed to enter the home to inspect the premises and provide a quote. Sometimes to come back and install alarms and monitors but on other occasions never to be seen again."
Apart from ensuring security staff were licensed and properly trained, the proposals suggest changes to the licensing system, which Mr Mark said was slow and left loopholes for dodgy operators to slip through.
Currently, licences and certificates of approval must be renewed every year on the same date - March 31 - which created a backlog while police processed thousands of background checks.
Under the proposals, registration would be renewed every five years but an annual update would be carried out to check the holder was still eligible. The New Zealand Security Association has labelled existing laws as "hopelessly inadequate" and welcomes tighter controls.
The industry flinches at negative publicity from cases such as the hiring of a convicted rapist to work at Wellington police station, as it establishes security as an essential service in people's lives.
The ratio of security guards to sworn police is about 1:1, according to the association, which says that more often than not it is private security providing a visible policing presence.
They patrol residential streets, deal with the drunk and disorderly on city streets, and hold shoplifters at shopping malls until police can get there.
Private security can be found guarding murder and other serious crime scenes for police. They transport prisoners and work in the courts.
"Exactly what constitutes 'policing' is now a contested issue, and with that comes issues around the proper balance of burdens, regulatory frameworks, accountabilities and controls," said Scott Carter, chairman of the New Zealand Security Association and chief executive of Matrix Security. Policing in this country is undertaken by a wide variety of groups, he said.
His company was providing street patrols in the wealthy Auckland suburbs of Remuera, St Heliers and Epsom a decade ago.
"The issue is not about whether it's public or private [policing]. The issues are always about safety, confidence and quality," he said. "If the private market can provide a better quality service or a very useful resource, then it makes huge economic and political sense to do so." Mr Carter said the industry was damaged by "fringe operators" who did not recognise training or operate under industry standards.
"The legislation really has to say ... the public has the right to expect that everybody acting in a security capacity doesn't have criminal convictions that prohibit them having access to sensitive information, and there is a degree of training."
Carter said bouncers straddled a line between hospitality and security but should come under the new regulations, and require training and a Certificate of Approval.
He said it was unfair to suggest there were major problems with thugs and criminals guarding the doors to clubs and bars.
"What we do have ... is a propensity of some establishments to rent muscle. The more intimidating the better and there's no regard given to training and criminal convictions because all they want is an intimidating figure."
But bouncers were seen by the public as security officers, and "unless standards apply to those people the security industry develops a bad name".
For Nigel Joyce, the brother of Cedric, who died outside the Copper Bock pub in Blenheim in July 2005, the changes could not come soon enough. Mr Joyce, 36, died after it was alleged that two bouncers had failed to allow him to breathe while trying to restrain him.
The bouncers were cleared of manslaughter by a jury in October.
"Generally, my view is that you should have to get a licence to be a bouncer because it would take the criminal aspect ... away from the industry."
Joyce said bouncers James Neal and Malaki Mulitalo had "no real training". He was shocked when they walked free from court but said "no one really knew what was happening to Cedric on the ground".
A coroner's hearing will be held into the death next month.
A spokeswoman for Associate Justice Minister Clayton Cosgrove said it was hoped a bill to amend the laws would be introduced to Parliament this year.