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Customs Vigilance essential - Jim Anderton Speech

23 July 2002

Hon Jim Anderton

Speech notes

Customs Vigilance essential

11:00 am

Opening of new Customs Inspection Base

20 Brigade Rd, Airport Oaks, Mangere

Te Mana Arai House

- Dame Te Atairangikaahu

- Whatamoana Paki

- Robin Dare

- Customs officers

One of the commitments I made on becoming the Acting Minister of Customs was to ensure that the Customs Service was properly resourced to undertake its work.

In the last budget there was additional funding of $3 million for the new roles Customs is expected to fulfil following the disaster of September 11. I am certain that Customs is now better recognised by the Government for its achievements than at an any time in recent history.

Customs in fact has been one of the quiet successes of the New Zealand Government over many years.

And it has been one of the least recognised or appreciated.

Customs provides an excellent border control service with an extremely high level of integrity. It is one of the best in the world.

The Customs Service routinely intercepts contraband (such as illegal drugs), checks baggage, cargo and mail, collects Customs duties, excise taxes and Goods and Services Tax (GST) on imports of around $7 billion, protects New Zealand businesses against illegal trade and enforces import and export restrictions and prohibitions.

I am particularly impressed with the activities of Customs in keeping harmful drugs out of New Zealand and a number of significant hauls have been made in the last few months.

The inflow of harmful drugs along with those locally grown and manufactured are doing significant damage to young people in New Zealand.

Drugs are closely linked with our high youth suicide rate. Young people are missing out on jobs and lacking the motivation to enter skills training.

I’m appalled by the mixed messages on drugs by one of the parties that claims to want to be part of the government after Saturday’s election.

In my view there is no room for mixed messages on the use of drugs. This includes marijuana use by young New Zealanders. Taken together with a culture of alcohol use and the difficult period of adolescence, and mixed also with the use of cars, which are in themselves lethal weapons, the mixture results in a lethal cocktail which has all too often has disastrous consequences.

There is no room for equivocation on drug abuse whether it be marijuana, so called party drugs, or alcohol. Whatever is dangerous must be opposed by all responsible community representatives.

In July there were a significant number of stories about the effect of illegal drugs.

These include figures issued by the Health Ministry in July which showed that admissions for drug psychosis rose more than 140 per cent during the decade 1990 to 1998/99.

I want to strengthen our border protection in order to reduce the import of hard drugs like fantasy and ecstasy.

However Customs does so much more. Already this month Customs has foiled the smuggling of sea turtle eggs, announced that NZ Customs will lead the Asia Pacific region of the World Customs Organisation, and starred in New Zealand’s most watched TV programme; Border patrol.

I continue to be impressed with your work and I want to again publicly acknowledge the work of CEO Robin Dare and of all our Customs Staff.

You cannot do your best unless your support services and facilities are of the appropriate standard.

I was pleased to launch in March the new mobile X-ray machine which makes inspection of baggage and mail much easier.

Today I am pleased to be here to open this Customs’ Inspections Base.

It is the first Customs building to be given a Maori name. I understand the name, Te Mana Arai o Aotearoa translates as the authority to ban, prevent or check all people and goods entering New Zealand.

This new base has a number of advantages.

It’s designed so that more complex examinations can be done. It allows a more intensive search to be done, such as stripping cars rather than just examining them because the tools etc are all on site.

It allows the examination of goods to happen at any time - late at night, or at weekends for example.

If goods are subject to MAF searches as well the premise is licensed and fitted for MAF to undertake its search there at the same time, as opposed to doing it separately.

The base has a cool store which means goods that are subject to refrigeration can be stored appropriately while waiting for testing results.

The site is more secure than any Customs site we have had before.

It allows examinations to be undertaken away from unnecessary attention, and allows control over goods while the process is taking place.

The existence of this base means that examinations are not restricted to only inbound cargo.

It is my pleasure to declare Te Mana Arai House; the new Customs Inspections Base, open.

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