External review of Operation Exploration released

Published: 08 August 2019

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has today released an external review into how the non-interference provisions of the Crown Minerals Act are effected.

MBIE Chief Executive Carolyn Tremain commissioned the review of Operation Exploration to ensure the ministry is planning and operationalising its responsibilities in relation to the non-interference provisions in the Crown Minerals Act. It was in response to the State Services Commission’s (SSC) inquiry into the use of external security consultants.

External reviewer Simon Murdoch was commissioned to undertake the review and has made 13 recommendations.

“I accept the report and the recommendations it has made to improve governance, risk management and knowledge management,” Ms Tremain said.

“Mr Murdoch found that since the National Plan for implementing the non-interference provisions of the Crown Minerals Act was adopted late 2014 there has been considerable progress within the national security system in how maritime risk management is conceptualised and organised.

“It is pleasing to note that the review found that the Plan has performed satisfactorily and proved fit for purpose in the circumstances it has encountered to date, with one major exception highlighted in the SSC inquiry, and some other weaknesses or revealed shortcomings of design.

“I will soon establish a new cross-agency project called the Non-Interference Zone Plan Refresh which will be led by MBIE, and will involve Police, Maritime NZ and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). Customs and the Ministry of Primary Industries will also be involved as needed.

“As part of this project, and in response to the report’s recommendations on governance , MBIE will work with Police, Maritime NZ, and NZDF to increase the level of governance oversight of the regime.  I have directed my Deputy Chief Executive from the Building, Resources and Markets group to work with his colleagues from relevant government agencies to progress this.

“Additionally, the memorandum of understanding in place governing the broader working relationship between MBIE and Police will be reviewed and amended to explicitly include expectations of professional conduct around information gathering and sharing. This will be aligned with the wider work MBIE is already undertaking to give effect to the SSC’s model standards on information gathering and public trust.

“The project will also amend the National Plan that governs the implementation of the non-interference provisions to provide for greater emphasis on being proportionate in terms of risk mitigations, and wider engagement with environmental and civil society groups and a risk register will be embedded into the National Plan.

“Work is underway to implement all the report’s recommendations and they will be operationally tested this summer.”


The Murdoch Report [PDF, 1 MB]

A letter to State Services Commissioner from MBIE CE Carolyn Tremain [PDF, 220 KB]

Briefing: Implementing the recommendations of the Murdoch Report [PDF, 915 KB]

The Terms of Reference for the external review [PDF, 452 KB]  

Response from State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes [PDF, 63 KB]

MBIE Transparency Statement


In March 2018 the SSC commissioned an inquiry into the use of external security consultants by government agencies.  The findings of the inquiry were released in December 2018.

Although the inquiry found no evidence of widespread inappropriate surveillance by external security consultants on behalf of government agencies, it did find that the system was not operating in a way that New Zealanders would expect.

Among its agency-specific findings, the inquiry found that MBIE’s management of its regulatory responsibilities in the petroleum and minerals area contributed to a perception of bias by some stakeholders, and was evidence of poor regulatory practice.

As part of MBIE’s response, Chief Executive Carolyn Tremain commissioned the external review into the way in which MBIE plans and operationalises its responsibilities in relation to the non-interference provisions of the Crown Minerals Act. 

MBIE’s documents provided to the SSC inquiry into the use of external security consultants are available here