The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

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Over 1 million access attempts blocked, and 47 investigations conducted in 2023

2023 statistics from the Digital Child Exploitation Team at Department of Internal Affairs, Te Tari Taiwhenua, have been released showing 47 investigations into child exploitation were undertaken, which led to finding 2,966,773 pieces of material and 209 seized devices.

The Department also blocked over 1 million access attmepts known to harbour child sexual abuse material and received nearly 20,000 illegal material referrals.

The below outlines the outcomes of DIA’s Digital Child Exploitation investigations, from January 2023 to December 2023:

  • 47 Digital Child Exploitation investigations
  • 15 offenders successfully prosecuted, with the rest still undergoing legal process
  • 35 children helped to be safeguarded from sexual abuse in New Zealand
  • 414 child victims identified as part of international joint operations
  • 209 seized devices
  • 2,966,773 pieces of material categorised
  • 1,149,570 access attempts known to harbour child sexual abuse material blocked
  • 18,461 referrals from NCMEC to NZ Police, DIA and NZ Customs Services
  • 921 referrals from the public and 348 referrals from other NZ agencies.

Reports also show that online child sexual exploitation is increasing both in New Zealand and worldwide. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) referred 18,598 reports of child exploitation material to New Zealand agencies, which was a 283%, increase in 2021-2023 compared to 2018-2020. NCMEC receive reports of child sexual abuse material from social media companies and forward collated reports to the relevant international law enforcement agencies, including DIA, NZ Police and New Zealand Customs Service.

2023 statistics reported that from the 47 DIA investigations into child sexual exploitation during 2023, the Digital Child Exploitation Team undertook 44 search warrants and prosecuted 15 offenders. The rest of the investigations are still undergoing legal process.

Investigators also seized 209 devices and categorised 2,966,773 pieces of material from those seizures. This included objectionable computer-generated material, objectionable adult content, terrorist and violent extremist content and videos and images of horrific and devastating child sexual abuse.

“The volume of child sexual abuse material being shared is extremely worrying and we hope these findings highlight the scale and nature of this deplorable content” says Tim Houston, Manager Digital Child Exploitation Team.

“The content we are seizing and prosecuting against is not innocent pictures of children, it is serious and abhorrent sexual abuse of children.”

“It contains situations and acts that no human being should see or know exist, let alone have to experience and then have distributed online for the despicable satisfaction of online offenders.” Says Tim Houston.

As a result of the 47 investigations, the Digital Child Exploitation Team worked closely with partner agencies to safeguard 35 children in New Zealand from harm or the potential risk of harm from an offender.

“The strong partnerships we have with other agencies in NZ Police, Customs and Oranga Tamariki has been critical in taking children out of potentially harmful environments.”

Throughout 2023, the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System, an internet filtering system which blocks objectionable child sexual abuse material websites, blocked 1,149,570 attempts to access websites known to harbour child sexual abuse material.

“If you are seeking out this material, please reach out for the help and support that is available, otherwise you will be found, stopped and held accountable.”

In June 2023, One NZ became the first telecommunications provider in NZ to sign up to the Department’s 11 Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

“Unfortunately, this type of horrific online abuse is a growing issue in our country. The message from One New Zealand is crystal clear – there is no place for this type of behaviour or material on our network and we will do everything in our power to stamp it out” says Jason Paris, One NZ Chief Executive.

“With technology evolving, we are facing growing challenges with child sexual exploitation investigations and victim identification.” Says Tim Houston.

“We are seeing a rise in AI generated abuse material that is disturbingly realistic."

“AI generated content is becoming easier to create, which normalises and encourages the physical abuse of children”.

“It takes significant resource and time to determine whether a child is AI-generated or not and takes our investigators away from identifying real-world children who are at risk.”

“More platforms are also moving to using End-to-End Encryption, reducing the ability for companies to detect illegal activity occurring on their platforms. As this becomes more prevalent, a lot of child exploitation will go unreported and offenders will increasingly operate with impunity.”

In 2023, DIA also worked with NZ Police, Customs and Ministry of Justice to develop a support package for non-offending partners and family members impacted by a child sexual exploitation investigation. The support pack provides information on court processes, as well as the support services available to them.

“The work the team has done this year has been extremely important in combating the ongoing increase of child sexual abuse material in New Zealand and globally. It has made a remarkable difference for New Zealand children, but it can’t stop here.”

About the Department of Internal Affairs Digital Child Exploitation Team

The Digital Child Exploitation Team is a small unit made up of 12 investigators including the manager and is responsible for keeping New Zealanders safe from online harm by responding to and preventing the spread of child sexual exploitation material.

The Digital Child Exploitation Team work closely with their valued partners in NZ Police and Customs to investigation child sexual exploitation material in New Zealand. This joint agency collaboration is critical in the safeguarding of Aotearoa’s most vulnerable.

DIA also have a worldwide reputation as a highly effective investigative team, protecting New Zealanders by detecting, investigating and prosecuting people who produce, distribute, or possess illegal child sexual abuse material. DIA works closely with international agencies including our Five Eye partners in the UK, Australia, USA and Canada. A prime example of exemplary international collaboration is Operation H which DIA led and resulted in the safeguarding of 146 children internationally.


If you are concerned about something you have seen or want to report a crime, please report it to the Digital Child Exploitation Team at DIA.

If you are the victim of a child abuse or sexual abuse crime:

Safe to Talk: 0800 044 334 Text 4334

If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s sexual behaviour, please reach out for support:

The Department of Internal Affairs uses the term child sexual abuse imagery. The term child pornography downplays the harm of child sexual abuse.