VIPs bring big security planning

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 01:12 12/03/2014

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A visit by up to six of the world’s most powerful leaders before and after November’s G20 meeting could involve a security operation as large as that for the Rugby World Cup, experts say.

Six leaders have expressed an interest in visiting New Zealand around the time of the two-day G20 meeting of the world’s largest economies in Brisbane, Prime Minister John Key says. New Zealand has been invited by Australia to attend.

Key would not reveal which leaders wanted to come, but said they were world heavyweights.

‘‘I can’t go into the individual leaders but by definition if you are a leader going to the G20 summit you’re one of the 20 most influential leaders, arguably, around the world,’’ he said.

Some of the leaders had not visited New Zealand before but had interests here.

Key has invited US President Barack Obama as well as the leaders of Britain, Canada, Germany and France to visit before or after the summit.

Such a concentration of high-profile visits would be a major logistical operation, he admitted.

‘‘We’d obviously have to try and manage that process as best we could and encourage some to come before and some after.’’

He did not have details on the size of the security operation yet though officials were working on that already.

Massey University security expert Rhys Ball, a former spy, said the event could be the biggest security operation since the 2011 Rugby World Cup, comparable with the Apec summit in 1999.

‘‘The logistics and the planning required to host visiting delegations including VIP, high-profile leaders is significant and substantial,’’ he said.

‘‘Usually what happens is you only get one head of state visit at a time but from time to time you do get these multiple situations and again Apec is probably the best example of New Zealand having to deal with that situation…’’

New Zealand officials would be working with their overseas counterparts already, Dr Ball said.

‘‘It’s a big deal… the worst case scenario can be painted but it has the potential to cause massive embarrassment as well so you don’t want to get it wrong.’’

Tonga Police Commissioner Grant O’Fee, who was head of security for the Rugby World Cup, said New Zealand was well equipped to cope with such an influx of VIPs.

‘‘In my view it’s very doable… It would be a big operation but it certainly wouldn’t be impossible.’’

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The World Cup was different in that the major focus was on crowds, rather than world leaders, but in both cases it meant a range of agencies working together.

Visits by world leaders can lead to disruption such as road and building closures, but O’Fee said the public expected this and Ball said agencies worked to minimise the impact.


- Fairfax Media

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