Labour has attacked the degree of secrecy about the preparation of a New Zealand troop deployment to Iraq.

The ABC in Australia revealed yesterday that New Zealand troops had begun training with the Australian Defence Force in Australia.

And while Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said he had a "satisfactory agreement" with the Iraqi Government on legal protections for New Zealand troops on deployment, he said he would not be releasing it for security reasons.

A joint New Zealand-Australia mission is scheduled to leave in late May for Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad, to help train Iraqi soldiers to fight Islamic State (Isis).


Mr Goff said the level of secrecy was unprecedented and that Labour had released the state of forces agreements for peace-keeping missions in the Solomon Islands and in East Timor.

"We knew that when New Zealand soldiers went there they were not liable to be arrested by the local authorities and charged with things under local law but that they would be subject to New Zealand and military law,"

he said on Radio New Zealand last night.

If the agreement was put in the public arena, the public could judge if the protections were good enough.

"There has been a whole pattern of secrecy here," Mr Goff said.

Fifty New Zealand personnel returned from Australia last week and they had been replaced by 60 others, Mr Brownlee's office said.

"Where you've got to have inter-operability on a mission like this it pays to have a little bit of time together as you go through the exercise of working out what that mission is going to look like," Mr Brownlee said.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully went to Iraq last week to discuss legal protections for New Zealand soldiers there -- 106 will be in Taji and about 40 others in support roles within the region.


Mr Brownlee told reporters yesterday he would not be discussing it publicly but said the agreement related to activities the New Zealanders would be involved in and "there are security concerns around that".

"We are satisfied that those protections are available but the full details of that won't be released.

"I think the public have an expectation that our troops will be afforded maximum security around their deployments."