Most of New Zealand's exports are now heading for corrupt countries, and businesses need to be vigilant in their dealings overseas, Transparency International New Zealand executive chairwoman Suzanne Snively says.
Many of the high growth Asian regions that New Zealand exporters were targeting had a high level of corruption in their business dealings, which was risky for the Kiwi companies trading with them.
Through her association with Transparency International, Snively said she was familiar with the less than trustworthy behaviours of public officials and businesses in many growing economies in Asia and South America.
"In 1970, the majority of exports went to places which were English-speaking and had several similar beliefs to our own.
"Now, in 2012, that has all changed and the majority of our exports are going in to countries which are corrupt, countries which don't share our beliefs and our culture - countries who say if you are going to do business here, you need to be more like us and our culture.
"This is a really important time for us to be vigilant as we move in to those areas."
Yesterday, Transparency International New Zealand launched an eight-month assessment of the integrity of New Zealand's public and private sectors. The organisation works to promote accountability, integrity and public participation in government and civil society, working to wipe out corruption and bribery.
The second National Integrity System Assessment comes a decade after the first one.
Although New Zealand ranks high on international transparency measures, the 2003 National Integrity study found there needed to be more transparency around political party funding, the openness and integrity of parliament and the promotion of ethical standards.
The security of private information held by government agencies has recently been in the spotlight and is of current concern to the public, after leaks of information at ACC, Inland Revenue, the New Zealand Transport Agency and poor security exposed at Work and Income this year.
At the launch of the assessment yesterday, Dr Jonathan Boston, senior associate at Victoria University Institute of Governance and Policies Studies, said New Zealand needed to be quick to respond to negligence, fraud and corruption.
"Recent events, not least the tragedy at Pike River, highlight some of these risks. Why did no one blow the whistle on the dangerous state of that mining operation? Why were the regulators so inept? And what can we learn from that tragedy?"
The final report, with recommendations, will be published in June.