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Fine for failing to declare risky plants

The Ministry for Primary Industries applauds the $3300 fine dished out by the Manukau District Court yesterday to an air traveller who deliberately failed to declare plant materials to quarantine officers.

Arriving at Auckland Airport from China in April, Ruifang Li ticked the “no” box next to the question on her declaration card asking whether she was bringing plants into New Zealand.

A baggage search revealed seeds concealed in three bags of food and in a hand towel. Two plant cuttings were also found in her baggage. Ms Li also pulled out a cutting from her jacket pocket during the inspection.

“We see Ms Li’s actions as a calculated attempt to bring biosecurity risk items that could have been carrying dangerous pests or diseases,” says Simon Anderson, MPI Team Manager Investigations.

“It’s great to see the courts are running out of patience with air passengers who try to smuggle risk goods into New Zealand.”

The sentencing follows the recent $4750 fine in the Manukau District Court for a frequent traveller from Thailand who failed to declare packets of seeds and fresh garlic bulbs.

There have been nine biosecurity convictions for air travellers since October in Auckland, with the fines ranging from $1000 to $6000.

“New Zealanders are passionate about protecting our environment and natural resources. When passengers deliberately flout the rules they can expect to be investigated and prosecuted.”


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