18 Sep 2013

Collins moves to reassure NZers about DNA exchange

6:25 pm on 18 September 2013

Justice Minister Judith Collins has moved quickly to quash worries that people's DNA will be passed to the United States as part of a data exchange agreement between the two countries.

Under the 'Enhancing Co-operation in Preventing and Combating Crime' agreement the two countries could exchange fingerprints, DNA and other personal information related to serious crime, particularly terrorism.

The treaty includes safeguards to ensure personal information is not abused.

Even though DNA is specifically mentioned in the treaty, Ms Collins says it's not part of the deal.

"That won't happen, I mean that's talked about in, I think, Article 4 of the treaty but Article 5 also goes on to say that it's all got to be in accordance with New Zealand law as well, our domestic law, so that won't be happening."

The Government is seeking Parliament's support for the treaty which has been tabled in Parliament and will be referred to the Foreign Affairs select committee for consideration.

It has already been signed by New Zealand's ambassador to Washington Mike Moore but doesn't come into force until it's ratified by Parliament.

Ms Collins says New Zealand is one of 36 countries to sign such agreements as part of the United States' visa waiver programme.

She says the country has no alternative but to ratify the treaty because New Zealanders would otherwise lose their visa-free access to the US.

But Green Party co-leader Russel Norman does not support the agreement.

"The reality remains that what we have learned over the last 12 months has fundamentally changed what we know about the way the US Government in particular, operates.

"And what that's shown is that none of our private data is safe with the US Government and that they take a lot of our private data without our consents so, you know, I'm pretty leery about giving them a whole bunch more."