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Seizure of high risk biosecurity goods increases

21 December 2001 – For Immediate Release

Seizure of high risk biosecurity goods increases under tougher regime

Since a new instant fine regime was introduced by MAF in July for travellers who fail to declare high risk biosecurity goods on their declaration cards seizures across all categories have increased by 20 percent.

Neil Hyde, Director of the MAF Quarantine Service says declaring goods is a clear, legal responsibility for all travellers particularly during the holiday season.

"The biosecurity notes on each Passenger Arrival Card clearly state that travellers who are not sure about any items should ask a MAF Quarantine officer. We operate very strict biosecurity procedures at our air ports and ports to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases of animals and plants. It's everyone's job to protect New Zealand by declaring high risk goods," he says.

This year's tougher measures were introduced along with an increase in teams of detector dogs and installation of new x-ray machines at the country's international airports.

Mr Hyde says the true value of the new regime has been illustrated by increases in seizures of 'undeclared' goods.

Figures show that in the first two months of the new measures seizures of undeclared fruit rose by 6 percent and undeclared meat and poultry products by 12 percent. An indication of quantity can be gauged from the annually reported tonnage of seizures for these goods, which saw 16 tonnes of fruit seized and almost 8 tonnes of meat and poultry products.

In the six months since $200 instant fines commenced 4,975 fines have been issued and more than $850,000 collected to date. Almost all fines have been paid, although approximately 4 percent are before the courts. On current trends the total collection from instant fines for 2002 is expected to be in the order of $1.6 million.

Fines for undeclared fruit and vegetables are the biggest category of fines, followed by stored food products such as dried fruit and nuts, contaminated equipment such as clothing and footwear, meat products and bee products.

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Returning New Zealanders make up nearly half of all travellers entering New Zealand and have accounted for 27 percent of the fines. Citizens of north Asian and Middle Eastern countries receive the highest number of fines (9 per 1000 travellers), followed in descending order by citizens of Europe, Africa, North America, Japan, the Pacific Islands, Central/ South America and South-East Asia.

Mr Hyde says women travellers in the under 35 and 55-64 age groups are attracting a large proportion of fines and this is of concern.

"We are also concerned about the 44 or younger age group among overseas visitors. We have high expectations for certain groups. The fact 140 fines have been issued to airline staff and one for a MAF employee, for instance, is disappointing. Our goal for these groups and eventually all groups, is to be 100 percent fine free.

In the 2000-2001 year MAF's Quarantine Service provided clearance for 22,441 aircraft and 3,424 vessels in accordance with biosecurity legislation and MAF standards.

ENDS

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