Police will have access to births, deaths and marriages data under proposed information-sharing changes after convicted murderer Phillip John Smith fled to Brazil in 2014 on a valid passport in his birth name.

"Under the proposed agreement, police will use the information they receive to match against the identities held in Police's system. Where there is a match, police will add the new name, indicate that the person is deceased, or indicate that the person has a non-disclosure direction in force," Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

There are around 6900 name changes each year and 31,000 deaths notified to the Department of Internal Affairs. There are also about 100 non-disclosure directions currently in force.

Police received some information but were not aware of the majority of people who changed their names, have died, or had non-disclosure directions in force.

The proposed information-sharing agreement will enable the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages to proactively provide this information to Police.

A weekly data exchange could pertain to information about 700 people.


"The information will ensure that police can maintain accurate records of people that it engages with. This will reduce the risk of offenders escaping justice by changing their names, and provide the public with more confidence that police can hold these people to account," Nash said in a statement.

"There are also benefits to the wider public of enabling police to have more accurate information about members of the public they engage with, whether as victims, witnesses to a crime, or people that Police is providing or connecting to a service. Police has a real focus on preventing harm in the community and ensuring they have accurate information is important to delivering that service."

The public are being asked for their feedback on the proposal until November 6.

If the agreement is approved, it will come into effect by mid-2019.

A government inquiry in 2015 into Smith's departure exposed weaknesses in identity management practices and systems in the justice sector and border protection agencies. It recommended agencies develop systems to enable information to be shared more effectively between each other.

Smith fled New Zealand in November 2014 while on temporary release from Spring Hill Prison, but was caught in Rio de Janeiro after being recognised by a fellow backpacker in a hostel.

He had obtained a passport issued in his birth name Phillip John Traynor, some 16 months before he left New Zealand on November 6.

About eight hours before he boarded the flight he had been released from Spring Hill prison on a temporary release of 74 hours, and he was meant to stay with designated sponsors.

Smith did not return to Spring Hill on November 9, and it was only on the following day that it was confirmed he had left New Zealand.

Legislation introduced by the previous National government enabled the New Zealand Transport Agency to provide driver licence photos to police. Police also got access to birth, passport and immigration biographic information and photos.


The sharing of birth, deaths and marriages information is the third step agreed to following the 2015 inquiry.