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Customs responds to international risks

Customs responds to international risks

Customs Minister Rick Barker says the New Zealand Customs Service is facing a growing task as the level of trade and travel, and the international risk, increases.

Mr Barker today released the New Zealand Customs Service’s post-election briefing, which includes the role of border management in international counter-terrorism initiatives.

“A year on from September 11, our Customs Service knows it cannot afford to let its vigilance slip. While New Zealand is at low risk of a direct attack, we do not want to be a safe haven or a staging post for attacks elsewhere,” Mr Barker says.

As part of the Government’s package counter-terrorism measures last year, Customs has set up a dedicated counter-terrorism intelligence unit, improved international information exchange and increased the number of hands-on inspections at the border. Further international developments are being closely monitored, particularly the United States Container Security Initiative.

“The United States Customs Service is wanting to increase levels of assurance about containers arriving in its ports. The United States is New Zealand’s second-largest export market, and so Customs is working with other Government agencies and key business representatives here to consider our response,” says Mr Barker.

The briefing outlines the increasing size and scope of Customs’ work. In the 2001-2002 financial year Customs screened over seven million people arriving in or leaving New Zealand, cleared over a million import goods transactions, and checked 50 million items of mail. This workload has doubled in the past decade and is expected to double again over the next 10 years.

The briefing says the key issue is to ensure Customs infrastructure is strong enough to meet the growing challenges.

Rick Barker says he’s pleased to note that the Customs Service signed a new national collective agreement last month with all three unions covering Customs staff, the Customs Officers Association (COA), the Public Service Association (PSA) and the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE).

The agreement sees Customs staff move to a new remuneration scale, with an increase in base salary of at least four percent. The settlement also provides for a more flexible system of working hours for staff in areas which operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and updated workplace policies and procedures.

The New Zealand Customs Service’s post-election briefing is available on the internet at http://www.customs.govt.nz or http:// http://www.beehive.govt.nz .

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