'Witch-hunt': New Zealand rattled by budget 'hacking' claims

Wellington: New Zealand's political opposition has denied hacking the Treasury department to obtain highly secure state budget documents and says the Ardern government is conducting a "witch-hunt".

The country's centre-right National Party on Tuesday released what it said were details from the Labour-led administration's much-anticipated national budget, but refused to say how it got the information.

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Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf later announced the department believed its systems had been "deliberately and systematically hacked" and confirmed there had been 2000 attempts to access budget documents over two days.

The matter had been referred to police, he said.


Opposition leader Simon Bridges said on Wednesday the government had been left embarrassed and was looking for scapegoats.

"There has been no hacking under any definition of that word. There has been entirely appropriate behaviour from the National Party the whole [way] through. There has been nothing illegal and even approaching that," Bridges said.

"They are not in control of what they are doing so they are lashing out and they are having a witch-hunt."

He accused both the Treasury department and the finance minister, Grant Robertson, of misleading the public, but repeatedly refused to say how National had obtain the information it had released.


Earlier, Robertson said he had contacted the opposition to request it not release any further information.

The budget details released prematurely by the opposition on Tuesday included figures of planned funding across a series of government departments.

It came just two days ahead of what the Ardern government has labelled its "wellbeing budget", which it says will shake up government budgets by measuring elements of public welfare, such as mental health and child poverty, alongside the usual economic indicators.