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Bank Raises Search And Surveillance Concerns

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Feb 25 NZPA - ANZ National Bank has joined the list of those concerned about aspects of a government bill giving police and other law enforcement agencies greater search and surveillance powers.

Parliament's justice and electoral select committee is considering the Search and Surveillance Bill, which is based on a 2007 Law Commission report.

The bill aims to give increased powers to police and other government agencies to extract electronic information and use surveillance devices in order to investigate and combat criminal activity, and addresses search warrant requirement thresholds.

Appearing at a justice and electoral select committee meeting in Parliament today, ANZ National Bank representatives said the bank supported existing powers of regulators in the commercial sector, but had concerns about aspects of the "maximum powers for all" approach being given to regulators in the bill.

Some of the proposed powers could impact negatively on employees, customers, the bank's reputation and ability to protect sensitive and confidential commercial and confidence information.

The bank questioned why some of the extended powers were needed when, for example, the Commerce Commission could already search premises and take documents.

Bank lawyer Aaron Lyne said the maximum powers for all approach raised issues including the fact that regulators had not explained why the additional powers were needed.

"Allowing regulators to covertly investigate the bank or its customers is a significant step in extending the powers of regulators," he said.

Mr Lyne said the chance of an error leading to private information being inappropriately accessed or inadvertently disclosed was a serious commercial risk which could lead to the bank's local and international reputation being damaged.

The potential for regulators to monitor employees in their homes, including tapping phones, raised privacy issues and could impact family members.

There was also concern that warrants could be issued on only an "indication" of wrongdoing, and that threshold needed to be raised to a point where there was proof that a strong prima face case existed.

Late last year other submitters, including the Human Rights Commission, Law Society and Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party raised concerns about the bill.

New Zealand Law Society spokesman Andy Nicholls said it was an unnecessary standardisation of power.

The Police Association said police already had well-established search and surveillance powers and suggested duplication would not help matters.

Committee chair Chester Borrows said the issues raised by submitters were being given careful consideration and legislation would not be rushed.

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