Glowing report on Government handling of Paris terror threats and 1080 milk scandal

New Zealand's security response in the wake of the Paris terror attacks and the 1080 threat to Fonterra has passed a review with flying colours. By STACEY KIRK.
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Auditor General Lyn Provost released the findings of an investigation into the governance of the National Security System, calling the system «well established, fundamentally sound and fit for purpose».
Following both threats, the high-level Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination (ODESC), was convened.
It’s a committee through which central government chief executives with security responsibilities provide the Prime Minister with policy advice on security and intelligence matters. In the event of a major crisis – whether that’s natural disaster, or a terrorist act – they will provide oversight.
In the weeks following Operation Concord – the response to a mailed blackmail threat that Fonterra infant formula products would be laced with the poison 1080 – «the system responded quickly to the threat, and provided sound and provided sound direction…»
The threat was received by Fonterra in November last year, with Federated Farmers receiving a similar letter the next day. Both letters were accompanied by a sachet of infant formula that tested positive for 1080 poison.
After receiving the letters, Fonterra and Federated Farmers both immediately informed the police.
«The System was activated the day the first threat was received,» the report said.
«A Watch Group convened that evening and met weekly after that. The day after the first threat was received, a meeting of ODESC was called, and it then met fortnightly.
«Watch Group and ODESC meetings continued regularly between November 2014 (when the threat was received) and March 2015 (when a public announcement about the threats was made).»
The threat was dealt with much secrecy due to the threat it posed to New Zealand’s economy should the wrong information reach exporters.
It was revealed publicly four months later – to intense scrutiny over whether infant lives were put at risk for the delay. It emerged there was no immediate threat.
Provost found that the right people were involved in watch Groups and ODESC, «and members demonstrated a willingness to share information, debate issues, provide resources, and work together».
In the case of the Paris attacks, which also happened in November 2015, any potential threat to New Zealand was deemed to have passed in a matter of days.
«The system was briefly activated in response to the attacks,» Provost said in the report.
«It was initially uncertain whether the attacks posed a threat to New Zealand or could otherwise affect the country, so the system was activated to consider possibilities.
«This was an example of the system activating in response to a potential threat and quickly deactivating when the threat was gone.»
The right people were again involved immediately and «situation updates flowed regularly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to other relevant agencies and to Ministers».
Across both crises, despite a large number of people being involved at times, that did not appear to hinder the groups’
Watch groups alone could involve up to 30 people, which ran the risk of forming an unwieldy structure that delayed progress.
«A balance between ensuring appropriate representation at meetings and not having too many people must be struck. The directorate is mindful of this when sending out invitations to meetings.»
Provost also praised ODESC attendance.
«When the ODESC meets, the chief executives from relevant agencies generally attend. This shows that chief executives prioritise attendance at these meetings.»
The report made two recommendations to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), which oversees the Security System.
It needed to sharpen the focus of the governance of the system by defining national security risks that would establish clear accountabilities, and rationalise the number of subgroups beneath the main board.
It was also recommended the resilience of New Zealand’s Security System could be strengthened by, among other things, «capturing institutional knowledge to build a knowledge bank that people in the System can draw on from for future responses.»
DPMC was already working to make improvements to the system, including to define national security risks.
Source: Stuff

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