Review of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Closed 16 Dec 2016

Opened 8 Nov 2016


On 28 June this year, the Minister of Justice asked the Law Commission and the Ministry of Justice to begin a joint review of the Search and Surveillance Act (the Act). The Act controls when and how Police and other law enforcement agencies can search people or property and carry out surveillance.

The review is considering how the Act has operated since it came into force four years ago and whether any amendments should be made. This includes examining problems our courts have highlighted with the Act, and how other countries have been resolving questions about search and surveillance powers.

The review has particular focus on the impact of recent developments in technology. For example, the use of smartphones and cloud-based storage has increased markedly since the Act was drafted. The ways in which surveillance can be carried out have also changed. These developments have altered both the type of information that can potentially be accessed by law enforcement agencies and how it can be accessed. The Act may need to be updated to reflect this.

The full terms of reference for the review can be found here and in Appendix A of the Issues Paper.

Appendix A: Terms of reference (PDF, 157KB)

Issues Paper

Our Issues Paper explored the key areas where we considered the Act may benefit from amendment. It identified some possible options for reform and raised specific questions that we sought feedback on. It did not contain any recommendations; its purpose was to elicit comments to assist us in reaching a final view.

Submissions on the Issues Paper are now closed, but you can download it here:

Review of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 - Issues Paper (PDF, 2.03MB)

What happens next?

The Law Commission and the Ministry of Justice will complete a joint final Report and will deliver it to the Minister of Justice on or before 28 June 2017. The Minister must then make the Report available to Parliament. The Government will consider its response to the Report, which may include introducing legislation.

Personal information and confidentiality

The Law Commission and Ministry of Justice are subject to the Official Information Act 1982. Submissions on this Issues Paper will be made available on request unless there are specific grounds for withholding them. Any request for withholding of information on grounds of confidentiality or for any other reasons will be determined in accordance with the Official Information Act 1982.


  • NZ public sector
  • NZ private sector
  • General public


  • Human rights
  • Privacy
  • Law enforcement
  • Search and Surveillance Act 2012