New Zealand's spies have turned up new terror threats as increased funding has boosted capability, says SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge.

But she says it doesn't necessarily reflect an increased danger to New Zealand and could show the improved ability of the SIS to identify threats.

Ms Kitteridge spoke to the Herald in the wake of the release of a briefing from the intelligence community to the Prime Minister about the six threats facing New Zealand. It listed violent extremism, cyber attacks, foreign spies, mass arrivals of refugees, organised crime and instability in the South Pacific.

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Ms Kitteridge said the SIS watch list of 30-40 people had not changed in number but those on it were considered to be of a higher security concern.

She said the SIS was up for meeting the threats to New Zealand even as it was working through a huge process of transforming itself.

"It's a challenge but it's a challenge I'm up for. The people here at the NZSIS are the best bunch of people you could hope to have as a workforce. They are really focused on what matters for New Zealand. They are young, full of energy and committed."

Ms Kitteridge said the SIS was working through "a lot of changes internally" since she took over in May 2014. Some changes reflected flaws found at the GCSB which she had reviewed a year before starting at the SIS.

On the six threats, she said there was no putting one threat above another although the immediate threat of loss of life would take precedence if it emerged. "The fact we highlighted that top six means they're all of concern. All of those are in our top priority."
Other threats - such as theft of intellectual property by cyber attack - could cause massive damage to New Zealand in other ways.

Ms Kitteridge said the SIS was "really grateful" for the extra funding received in the last budget which had allowed it to boost its capabilities. It picked up an extra $20m over four years which was a 12 per cent increase to its budget. The increased staff and ability to focus of specialisation meant it was now extracting more intelligence from areas it had not previously.

"If your numbers are growing as our numbers are growing, and you find more, I have been very careful about not saying the threat has changed. It may just be that we are finding more. You have to be quite careful about all of this. I'm not in favour of shroud waving or scare-mongering. I want to be very factual and not over-egg what we are doing."

Ms Kitteridge had previously told the Herald that New Zealand's risk to a terror attack had gone from "very low" to "low".

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She said the SIS was working on finding ways to report its work to the public in a way which didn't expose secrets but built public confidence.

However, she did concede it was hard to report on nothing adverse occurring. "That's definitely the result you want".