15 Jan 2013

NZ, Britain to work more closely on cyber security

10:19 pm on 15 January 2013

The New Zealand and British governments have agreed to work more closely to counter threats to cyber security.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday met with Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Auckland as part of a two-day visit to New Zealand.

The governments are already working together on cyber security, but the announcement will lead to closer co-operation, Radio New Zealand's political editor reports.

Murray McCully, left, and William Hague outline the agreement in Auckland.

Murray McCully, left, and William Hague outline the agreement in Auckland. Photo: RNZ

Mr McCully and Mr Hague released a joint statement, saying the governments will work together and with key allies to coordinate responses to incidents affecting government and private sector networks in both nations.

They also agreed to collaborate on cyber-related research and development, including with the private sector.

Mr Hague said Britain wants to maintain the freedom of the internet, but also keep it secure.

"Cyber space is one of the greatest national, global and strategic challenges now of our time. It represents an economic opportunity to ensure that we have safe bases in cyber space for our businesses to operate in.

"But it's very important as well to the security of our countries and businesses, and today we agreed a statement of principle to take this work forward."

Cyber space is not the only area where the two countries are moving closer together. Mr McCully and Mr Hague agreed to increase cooperation between their ministries and will look at sharing more facilities overseas.

Mr Hague also hinted that Britain is likely to back New Zealand's bid for a spot on the United Nations Security Council in 2015 and 2016.

While in Auckland, William Hague will meet business leaders and entrepreneurs, young leaders, academics and non-government organisations.

He will also visit earthquake-hit Christchurch for a tour of the South Island city's red zone and to lay a wreath in honour of New Zealand servicemen and servicewomen.

Embassies likely to be shared

Diplomats from New Zealand and Britain are likely to end up sharing more facilities overseas as the countries try to get the most out of their spending on diplomacy.

Murray McCully and William Hague on Tuesday agreed to look at opportunities to save money by sharing embassies.

Mr McCully said New Zealand's diplomatic representive in Kabul is already located at the British embassy.

"In relation to Honiara and the Solomon Islands, we've got a project which will lead to New Zealand, if you like, returning the favour. We can take the lead on construction of facilities but offer posting arrangements for the United Kingdom.

"We've talked about one or two other areas where our two systems can work more closely together for both reasons of efficiency and effectiveness."

Labour wants working restrictions eased

The Labour Party called on the British government to ease restrictions preventing skilled New Zealanders living and working in the United Kingdom.

Leader David Shearer raised the matter during his meeting with Mr Hague on Tuesday, saying the British Foreign Secretary is open to considering it.

"We used to have 1500-odd people getting skilled visas going into the UK and it's dropped now to about 750, whereas about 6500 come from the UK to New Zealand. So it would be good if that could be opened up a bit more.

"He did say that there were other avenues for New Zealanders going and living and working in the UK as well which he would like us to explore further too."

Mr Shearer said they also spoke about the Middle East and Iran.