Tougher border controls show results
Tougher border control measures and tighter surveillance appear to be having an impact on illegal imports, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.
He told the Ruapehu Federated Farmers annual meeting in Taumarunui this evening that a significant increase in airport seizures compared with the previous year had been reported, far greater than what would have been expected from increases in passenger numbers.
Seizures of undeclared goods at Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington international airports were up 25 per cent in April and 28 per cent in May, compared to the same months last year, according to MAF Quarantine Service figures. Passenger number increases were 2 per cent and 7 per cent greater in April and May respectively.
Mr Sutton said the increases could be attributed to the 100 per cent searching and x-raying of all mail, passengers, and baggage which had been introduced in April this year.
"So far as I know, we are the only country in the world to do this."
The MAF Quarantine Service figures show that 82 per cent more passengers were searched or x-rayed at the three major international airports compared with the same time last year.
"The number of seizures per 1000 passengers increased by 21%, from 28.0 in April-May 2000 to 33.8 in April-May 2001.
"Even though the additional passengers processed have been at the lower-risk end of the spectrum, the increase in seizures demonstrates that risk that even "low-risk" passengers as a group carry significant amounts of biosecurity risk material."
Mr Sutton said the installation of soft-tissue x-ray machines at the three regional airports (Palmerston North, Dunedin and Queenstown) and two military airports (Ohakea and Whenuapai) was also paying off.
Since their installation in late April or early May 2001, the new x-ray machines at three regional airports have detected 64 seizures, most of which were undeclared.
At Dunedin airport, declared seizures increased 86% in April-May 2001, compared with April-May 2000.
However, undeclared seizures increased by 445%. The undeclared seizures included items such as nursery stock, seeds and meat, which were only found when declared in April-May 2000.
At Queenstown airport, declared seizures showed no change, while undeclared seizures increased by 92%.
Undeclared seizures have also increased dramatically at Hamilton and Palmerston North airports.
Mr Sutton said that whenever goods and people came into New Zealand, there was a biosecurity risk.
"The Labour-Alliance Government recognises that risk and has put a considerable amount of money and effort into ensuring it is properly managed.
"We have a lot to protect in New Zealand."
Mr Sutton noted that instant fines of $200 for biosecurity breaches were implemented on Monday. So far, about 50 people have been fined.