The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) leadership team has made the decision to decommission and remove the Waihopai Station radomes and dishes after more than 30 years of service.
Changes in global telecommunications and information technology mean the interception of satellite communications from Waihopai has declined over the years to the point where dish use is now virtually obsolete.
To further underscore this decision, the dishes have reached their structural end-of-life and will in the coming years require significant investment were they to remain operational. This funding can be more usefully invested in other intelligence capabilities.
While the dishes and the radomes will come down, the Waihopai Station will continue to operate and support the Bureau’s ongoing national security activities.
To give a picture of their dwindling use, in the past year less than 0.5 percent of the intelligence reports produced by the GCSB were based on dish collection from Waihopai.
Satellite communication interception is only one of the intelligence collection methods the GCSB is able to use under the Intelligence and Security Act 2017.
More modern methods collect more targeted communications, and these other forms of intelligence collection are now more effective and efficient at contributing to the Government’s National Security and Intelligence Priorities than the type of satellite communication interception undertaken at Waihopai.
The way in which the GCSB works has evolved, and will continue to evolve, alongside changes in technology. The GCSB needs to continuously assess and update its capabilities to ensure they contribute to the fullest extent possible to the Government’s Priorities, as well as respond to rapidly evolving technology, and to the security threats New Zealand faces.
While GCSB’s activities always need to be undertaken in accordance with the Government’s Priorities, and the law, we do work closely with our international partners, particularly the Five Eyes.
The Deputy Director-General Intelligence and I have discussed the discontinuation of the satellite interception mission with our Five Eyes counterparts, who continue to value the unique contribution GCSB makes to the partnership through our other capabilities.
The first of the two 18-metre diameter dishes and radomes was constructed and began operating in 1989, with a second dish and radome added in 1998. The dishes and radomes are expected to be removed next year.