By Jane Luscombe
New Zealand spies have asked university staff to be on the lookout for colleagues or students who might be making weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
The request sounds like a plot out of a trashy novel, but the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) says it is serious, and they are not happy.
The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) says it intends to help prevent the proliferation of WMD, and that the development of WMDs could be going on under the public's noses
Auckland PHD student Stephen Bier says the SIS sent a booklet to universities titled A Guide to Weapons of Mass Destruction: Your Role In Preventing Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The booklet includes a hotline for information (0800-SIS-224) and an email address for tip-offs.
The pamphlet is also aimed at exporters to make sure they don't send sensitive information to terrorists.
Tom Ryan, of the TEU, says the new protocol could be detrimental to faculty-student relationships.
“It's got the potential to disrupt the relationship between colleagues for example, who might be expected to check on each other and particularly by staff members and students,” he says.
Just three months ago the Australian authorities ordered a review of security at military bases after an alleged suicide shoot-out plot by four Australian citizens - all of Somali or Lebanese descent.
The SIS in New Zealand would not tell 3 News whether the booklets were sent out in response to a specific threat.
Several terrorism experts told 3 News that the SIS is trying to show more powerful countries, such as the US, that the country is helping to prevent the international spread of WMDs.