WELLINGTON (AFP) – The "hacktivist" group Anonymous on Tuesday briefly crashed New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's website in protest at plans to allow the country's intelligence agency to spy on local residents.
A group identifying itself as Anonymous NZ posted a clip on YouTube saying it had attacked Key's website www.johnkey.co.nz and 12 others linked to the ruling National Party to show its opposition to "a despicable piece of legislation".
"John Key make no mistake the majority of New Zealanders oppose this bill," it said.
"Due to your own arrogance and your unwillingness to listen to the people we have decided to take direct action."
Key's website was operating normally by Tuesday afternoon and the prime minister condemned the hackers.
"(It's) pretty juvenile behaviour in my view," he told Radio New Zealand. "These people are obviously doing something that's both illegal and inappropriate. They're trying to make their own political point, but their point's wrong."
New Zealand's intelligence service, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), is currently barred from spying on New Zealand citizens or residents.
Key argues the restriction should be removed so it can cooperate more closely with agencies such as the police and military in an increasingly complex cyber-security environment.
The bill is currently before parliament and expected to pass by a single vote, although groups ranging from the Law Society to Internet giants Facebook and Google have raised concerns about the proposal.
One of the strongest opponents is Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who received an apology from Key last year after revelations the GCSB illegally spied on him before armed police arrested him for alleged online piracy.
The Auckland-based German national took part in a street protest against the bill at the weekend but urged hackers not to attack the government, saying it was counterproductive.
"Dear Anonymous NZ, hacking National Party websites is just giving John Key a new excuse to pass the #GCSB bill (cybercrime). Please stop it," he tweeted.