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Jim Sutton At Detector Dog Graduation

Hon Jim Sutton Speech Notes 28 June 2001

Embargoed until: 2pm, 6 July 2001

Detector dog graduation, Auckland

Neil Hyde, Rene Gloor, ladies and gentlemen: thank you for inviting me here this evening.

I am delighted to welcome the new members of MAF's thin green line - our country's first defence against the myriad of pests and diseases that could potentially wreak havoc here if they got established.

You six are part of the extra $4.6 million that got allocated to biosecurity and border control measures in March, in the wake of the foot and mouth outbreak in Britain.

The other measures from that allocation - the extra soft-tissue x-ray machines and their operators - are efficient and excellent, but they are less visible than yourselves.

The twelve of you - canines included - are the first impressions visitors get of MAF, of how seriously we in New Zealand take biosecurity.

That puts a big responsibility on your shoulders.

Not only does everyone in New Zealand rely on you to sniff out potentially dangerous material, thus protecting us all, we also need you to do it in a friendly, non-aggressive - but assertive - way.

Not always the easiest.

With your graduation today, this will bring the numbers of operational detector dog teams to 19 nationally. That's 12 working at Auckland International Airport, 2 teams at the Christchurch International Airport and 2 teams at the Wellington International Airport, as well as the 3 active response dog teams who are focusing on incoming mail at the International Mail Centre in Auckland.

Of the six teams graduating today, Moses Toeke and K9 Dana, Jessica van der Pol and K9 Sofie, Aimee Grimmer and K9 Miska, Karyn Allen and K9 Cassie, and Paul Northover and K9 Buster will be working here in Auckland at the airport.

Sarah Hudson and K9 Bess are heading for work at Wellington International Airport.

I'm sure you'll all be busy.

I've been told the average detection rate per dog handler team ranges between 7 to 10 seizures per day.

Since the beginning of the year the Detector Dog Teams made nation wide over 3400 seizures at the International Airports (48 % of them undeclared.). Over 170 interceptions during that period were seized "on the person". That means that the passenger had hidden the quarantine risk material by either carried in coat pockets or strapped to the body.

Given that the number of instant fines dished out had risen to 450 last Monday, I think you'll all find you do have plenty to do.

I'm confident you've been well-trained and you will carry out your duties well. MAF has an international reputation for good training programmes in this area. In the past, the MAF Detector Dog Programme has sold fully trained detector dogs to several other agencies like the Australian Quarantine Service, Department of Agriculture of Hawaii, and the Department of Agriculture of Argentina.

In January 2001, the MAF Detector Dog Programme hosted the first annual Conference for Biosecurity Detector Dogs in Auckland. Representatives from USA, Canada, Australia and the state of Hawaii but also from the NZ Customs Service Drug Dog Programme participated during the one week long workshop and conference. That gives an indication of the regard in which the MAF team here is held.

Thank you all for completing this course. The work you're going to do is extremely important to this country, and we value it.

Congratulations on your graduation and good luck in your working lives.

Thank you.

Office of Hon Jim Sutton

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