Special Investigation Group

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The Special Investigation Group (SIG) is a New Zealand government group that focuses on threats to national security, formed after 11 September 2001. It is part of the New Zealand Police, and there are SIG teams centered in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.[1]


Funding for the group was announced in 2004 and the group was formed in 2005. The formation of a central Strategic Intelligence Unit was approved by the New Zealand government as early as January 2002.[2] The group was formed 'to focus on terrorism threats to national security' in response to September 11 terrorist attacks.[3] SIG appears to be operated by New Zealand police in connection with the New Zealand Defence Force, Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). The group reportedly has teams in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. An intelligence unit and a special tactics group was formed by police in 2002 to look into terrorism, at the same time as the SIS budget increased markedly and when Jon White was made Assistant Commissioner of Counter Terrorism.[4]


The subsequent activities of the group have been controversial, following the revelation in December 2008 that Christchurch man Rob Gilchrist had been spying for SIG officers on individuals and organisations including Greenpeace, Iraq war protestors, student associations, animal rights and climate change campaigners.

News that SIG existed first emerged in public media in December 2008, when it was reported that an exposed SIG spy had spied on political parties and organisations involved in peaceful, environmental, animal and human rights activities. Subsequent articles reported that SIG had been receiving information on a variety of organisations including unions, contrary to a prior claim that only individuals were targeted.[5]

Officers involved in the group include Detective Peter Gilroy and Detective Senior Sergeant John Sjoberg, both named in connection with the Gilchrist incident. The Sunday Star Times reported, at the time the Gilchrist scandal broke, that Detective Peter Gilroy 'moved to New Zealand in 1973 from the London Metropolitan Police and was a member of the Armed Offenders Squad and then Special Tactics Group from 1975–1999, when he appears to have moved into police intelligence work'.[2]

Within days of details covering SIG activities being released into mainstream media in December 2008, New Zealanders began calling for a commission of enquiry into the group.[6]

SIG has been criticised for spying on peaceful protest and community organisations, wasting resources, and using "Stasi tactics and covert political operations that undermine democracy" (Keith Locke, Green Party police spokesperson). The group has also been criticised for "dangling money, public money, in front of protest group members, such as Gilchrist, in an attempt to [turn] them into spies" (Alan Liefting, Coalition spokesperson),[3] and for having "gone well outside its mandate" (Andrew Little, EPMU president).[5]

On 22 December 2008 the Maritime Union of New Zealand announced it had received legal advice and would seek further action. The union wants to know what information is held by police about itself.[7] Others who have already received SIG information about themselves include pacifist Harmeet Singh Sooden, whose SIG files were released during a Scoop investigation in December 2008.[8]

According to the New Zealand Herald, Police Commissioner Howard Broad commented that "he did not believe an inquiry is needed into allegations police have been spying on peaceful protest groups and defended the use of informants, saying they were used for a range of inquiries including murder." Broad stated that "police were not targeting peaceful protesters but if they were alerted to the possibility of violent action or vandalism, they acted." He also said that "SIG was intended to assess threats from individuals who may or may not be members of groups."[9]


  1. ^ "Who the police were spying on". 13 December 2008. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Who the police were spying on". The Sunday Star-Times. 13 December 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b Tan, Lincoln (15 December 2008). "Chief of police called in over spies". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  4. ^ Police Terror Boss has Activist Harassment History, Scoop, Joseph Barratt, 26 October 2008, retrieved 30 December 2008.
  5. ^ a b Gower, Patrick (19 December 2008). "Spy's targets contradict 'individuals only' claim". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  6. ^ Call for commission of enquiry, NewstalkZB, 21 December 2008, retrieved 30 December 2008.
  7. ^ Maritime Union to pursue further action over spy, Scoop, MU Press Release, 22 December 2008, retrieved 30 December 2008.
  8. ^ State Of It: Police SIG Unit Wasted On Tag-Busting, Scoop, Selwyn Manning, 19 December 2008, retrieved 30 December 2008.
  9. ^ NZPA and Lincoln Tan (15 December 2008). "Police spying inquiry not needed - Broad". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011.