REBECCA KITTERIDGE
Spymaster
1966

The first female director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

The past five years have seen what is possibly the greatest ever overhaul of our security services and much of it has been driven by spymaster Rebecca Kitteridge.

Kitteridge was the right person in the right place when the Government Communications Security Bureau was caught illegally spying on German entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.

That was late 2012 and Kitteridge, a lawyer, was working as Cabinet secretary at the time - a linchpin role holding the government together through the management of the framework inside which ministers run the country.

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Then-Prime Minister Sir John Key appointed her to carry out an investigation into the GCSB, a task which could only be monumental considering its bunkered, secretive nature. It is not a place which welcomes outsiders, particularly those wanting to probe its inner workings.

Her report in April 2013 was a precision strike. No sentence formed a headline but in totality, it was a scorching expose on a critical government agency which had strayed from the law by which it was meant to operate.

Kitteridge was then appointed to run the bureau's partner agency, the NZ Security Intelligence Service, where she has set about instituting similar reform. The issues exposed at the bureau were also found in the NZSIS, but without the accompany Dotcom drama.

As New Zealand's first female director-general, Kitteridge has overseen the service's thwarting of terror plots, managed an ongoing shift in culture and fought for - and won - a remarkable growth in funding and staff.

During this time, Kitteridge's leadership has seen the NZSIS embrace modern public sector essentials such as diversity and transparency.

The former service heads - like the agencies they led - were grey men.

Kitteridge, in contrast, was a burst of brilliant colour.