The GCSB has announced that the intelligence gathering facility at Waihopai near Blenheim is to be decommissioned and dismantled.
The source of much speculation and many theories as to its purpose, the distinctive two dome structure was first opened in 1989.
In 2008 a group of protesters entered the site and punctured the kevlar covering of one of the satellites, causing it to deflate and look like a popped balloon.
According to a statement released by Andrew Hampton, Director General of the GSCB, the facility had virtually become obsolete and the dishes had reached the end of their structural life, requiring significant investment to continue to operate.
‘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,’ said Hampton.
Last year less than 0.5% of intelligence reports produced by the GSCB were based on information gathered by the Waihopai facility.
Hampton’s statement further stated:
- 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.