Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Ngaire Kelaher – Security Risk and Training Consultant
Gary Morrison – CEO, New Zealand Security Association
Andrew Thorburn – Enterprise Security & Risk Manager, Atlas Gentech

Key Points

Ngaire notes that Covid has brought about a significant change. Interestingly many of the problems encountered elsewhere in the world are mirrored in New Zealand. One of the key ones is that the security sector has met problems in recruitment. There is a labour shortage and the low pay rates and traditional jaundiced view that many have of security work has served to fuel the problem. As Ngaire says, this is not just a matter of recruitment, there are also problems of retention. She emphasises the value of communication skills of those on the frontline and the need to be empathetic and understanding which are difficult to find in large numbers, yet this is the essence of good security. Ngaire emphasises that people are key to good security.

Gary Morrison notes that New Zealand is a small country and an island nation and so closing the borders to protect against Covid was relatively easy. The early success the world heard about came at a cost, in that new variants meant it was not beaten quite as easily as first thought and then there are the economic consequences of shutdowns. The latter has meant business has struggled, albeit less so many parts of the security sector, but clearly those who pay for security may tighten the belts as we move forward. The lack of people to fill security posts has been accentuated by the lack of foreign students (due to Covid). Technology, supported by overseas people, has filled a gap, but the sector needs to engage more of it locals, including those at school and you will hear him describe an initiative that his association is spearheading in this regard. Another challenge has been maintaining standards as new entrants to the market have sometimes operated under the regulatory radar and that needs to be a focus. The potential reputational damage is a concern since some key stakeholders, including police and government, have not always been as supportive and engaged as would be ideal.

Andrew Thorburn highlights the changes and the challenges in more people working from home that was a consequence of adjusting to Covid. It meant people were working in environments that were less secure and supervised and the knock-on effects may not be felt for a while yet. You will hear Andrew discuss his experiences in the broader business environment with interesting references to the role of technology. Automation in business is playing a big role but there are limits to how much that can be replicated in security where people are at the heart of responding well. This is not over yet and divisions in society still need to be managed (for example between those who support and are against vaccinations). Seeing the private security sector as proactive he sees enormous potential in complementing the police service, but that will require a strategic shift that has not yet occurred.

At the end of the webinar the panellists were asked to suggest the key strategic objective that might guide what the security sector does next. Ngaire focussed on the need to recruit and engage the right people and then on professional development, similarly Andrew highlighted the value of education and also of the value of collaboration. Gary called for more government recognition, something that security sectors around the world would echo. New Zealand is not alone in the challenges it faces.

Martin Gill
8th December 2021