Nosiness gets a bad rap.

Think of nosy neighbours. Who wants them peering out through their net curtains, observing your comings and goings and counting the gentlemen callers? Tutting at the time you pulled up in a taxi, hissing through their teeth in horrified delight as you staggered up the path and fumbled for the door key?

Nosiness implies disapproval and judgment and censure.

And yet that's not always the case. I loved hearing this week about the case up north of the locals who helped police uncover New Zealand's biggest methamphetamine haul.


The alleged crims were busted when locals reported suspicious vehicles in the area and people trying to launch boats off the Far North's west coast. A low-flying aircraft added to the mystery.

Some locals were offered suspiciously large sums of money to help strangers get their boats into the water and knew something wasn't kosher.

So they took down registration numbers, memorised faces and called police - and New Zealand's largest drugs bust came down to good old-fashioned neighbourliness.

It reminded me of the Rainbow Warrior bombing more than 30 years ago.

Those of a certain age will remember it vividly.

The finest espionage agents from the French secret service were handpicked to come down to the Pacific backwater of New Zealand and instructed to teach those peacenik Greenies a thing or two.

Greenpeace and its flagship were a thorn in the French Government's side, leading flotillas to protest against nuclear testing in the Pacific.

The French responded by detonating two bombs on the Rainbow Warrior while it was berthed at Auckland Harbour. A man died and although the French say they never intended to kill anybody, the reality is that if you let off bombs, there's a real chance people will die.

The country was stunned and appalled but almost immediately information came flooding in. From nosy people.

Would the bombing have anything to do with the French man and woman who came and asked locals if the Rainbow Warrior was tied up over there at Marsden Wharf? Would the yacht that was sailed into Northland by French crewmen, ostensibly on a holiday, have something to do with this act of terrorism?

A teacher who taught French in Kaikohe overheard four Frenchmen speaking about things they really shouldn't have been.

A cyclist, two fishermen, a neighbourhood watch team and just about everybody in the eastern suburbs of Auckland saw a man in a frog suit steering an inflatable dinghy along the shoreline because the cream of the French secret service had misread the tides and couldn't land where they intended.

A motel worker told police the Swiss couple who were supposed to be on their honeymoon hadn't slept in the same bed.

It took police just 14 days to arrest Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart, two of the most hapless spies produced outside a Hollywood comedy.

And all because New Zealanders look out for each other. Mafart wrote bitterly in his biography that: "We did not know that in this country you cannot make a move without being observed, that informing the police is a national duty."

Long may we take an interest in what is going on in our communities.

May we continue to be aware of those who wish us harm. And let the world know that international drug rings and French spies are no match for ordinary Kiwis who want to keep their country safe.

Kerre McIvor is on Newstalk ZB weekdays, noon-4pm.