New Zealand's spy agencies have expressed concern to western intelligence allies about China's interference in our domestic affairs.

The Wall Street Journal reported today officials from New Zealand and Australia raised issues of China's interference in July in Ottawa, Canada, at a meeting of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

The concerns of New Zealand spy agencies stands in sharp contrast with government attempts to downplay an issue which has dominated Australian politics and led to Senators resigning and new security and political donation laws on the other side of the Tasman.

This week Labor Party Senator Sam Dastyari resigned after a donations scandal involving a billionaire Chinese businessman with close links to the Communist Party. Dastyari had earlier given a controversial speech backing China's position in South China Sea territorial dispute, and is reported to have warned the billionaire donor he was being monitored by Australian intelligence agencies.


Canterbury University professor Anne-Marie Brady has recently published a series of studies on China's influence in New Zealand, noting close ties between former cabinet ministers and state-owned Chinese businesses and a river of political donations flowing to the government of the day.

Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "When it comes to some of the issues that have been raised in Australia, I haven't seen evidence of the kinds of issues they are talking about here in New Zealand. That's not to say we should be complacent. We have to be vigilant and we are."

And Foreign Minister Winston Peters went off-script last week in a speech marking the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand, saying much criticism of China is unwarranted.

"The West and commentators in the West should have a little more regard to that and the economic outcomes of those people rather than be constantly harping on about 'the romance of freedom.'"

Peters went on to quote a song sung by Janis Joplin. "She said 'freedom's just another word for nothing else to lose'."

That part of Peter's speech was approvingly quoted by China's Global Times, who said the New Zealand First leader had broken with Western ranks and was now no-longer anti-China.

Australia's government has drawn a cooler response from China's media after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he would "stand up" to attempts by China to interfere in Australian politics.

A recent editorial in China's official People's Daily said Australia was gripped by "hysterical paranoia" and the debate was "full of racial undertones".


Copies of briefings by intelligence agencies to incoming ministers in the new Labour-New Zealand First government released to media had names of foreign adversaries redacted, but the SIS warned of attempts to get "sensitive government and private sector information" and also "unduly influence expatriate communities".

The Financial Times reported earlier this week these broad warnings concerned the activities of China.