New Zealand says it won't send combat troops to Iraq to directly fight the Islamic State group but it could send military personnel to help train Iraqi forces behind the front lines.

Prime Minister John Key on Wednesday delivered a speech on national security to address the Pacific Island nation's response to the threat posed by the extremist group.

Key said government agencies have a watch list of between 30 and 40 New Zealanders who are engaged in extremist behavior. He said some have traveled to Syria to participate in fighting, others have tried but have had their passports canceled, and others are funding terrorism.

Key said New Zealand has been considered relatively safe from extremist threats but that is changing.