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Rick Barker’s Address: Opening Of The WCO Meeting

Rick Barker’s Address: Opening Of The WCO Regional Contact Points Meeting

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Robin Dare, Comptroller of Customs and your staff; leaders and members of delegations to the RCP meeting; ladies and gentlemen.

I am happy to welcome our visitors to Auckland on behalf of the New Zealand Government. The issues you are going to be covering this week are very important ones. I look forward to receiving a report on the outcome of your discussions.

New Zealand is proud to have this opportunity of serving the Asia Pacific region of the World Customs Organisation as Regional Vice-Chair. It is a responsibility that Robin Dare and his team take very seriously. We hope to add value to the work of the group during our two-year tenure.

As Minister of Customs I carry the responsibility for ensuring New Zealand's border security. Despite our geographical isolation, we are an outward-looking country. We live by trading with the rest of the world and we enjoy welcoming visitors to our shores.

In addition New Zealanders are themselves great travellers. As a result, we see the movement of large numbers of people and large quantities of goods across our borders. That poses risks but we pride ourselves on having robust systems in place to manage those risks. We think we have a good balance between facilitating trade and maintaining security.

Co-operative relations among the Customs administrations of neighbouring states can make a big contribution to reducing risk. That is one of the reasons why the Asia Pacific grouping of WCO member states is such a valuable institution. The links that exist between your Customs agencies provide a web of information that helps to block illegal activities.

The shocking terrorist attacks of September last year in the United States, and on the island of Bali this month, have forced us to question whether our security arrangements are adequate. There is more work to be done in this area. The United States is taking a strong lead with its Container Security Initiative and other proposals. As Robin has indicated, this and other security-enhancing measures will be high on your agenda over the next four days.

For legitimate travellers and shippers, we try to make our entry processes as straightforward as possible. Here in Auckland at present we are hosting the elite of the world's yacht-racing community. They are competing for the Louis Vuitton trophy and the right to challenge New Zealand for the Americas Cup. You will probably be too busy with your agenda to see them in action on the harbour. But you may catch sight of them at rest, down at the Viaduct Basin, not far from here.

Customs has developed some innovative ways of handling the influx of yachting people, along with their yachts and other equipment. Visiting yacht owners can complete their Inward Report and Arrival Advance Information forms on-line before they arrive. The forms can be accessed from the Customs Service web-site, and everyone saves a lot of time.

In addition, a New Zealand Border Agencies Information Pack has been distributed to many of the overseas places that are the departure points for yachts heading towards New Zealand. This information pack sets out in advance the various requirements of Agricultural Quarantine, Immigration and the Maritime Safety Authority.

To make matters even simpler, we have a Temporary Import System for Americas Cup participants. This allows the syndicates to import their boats and equipment without having to pay duties, goods and services tax or a bond. The understanding is that the goods will be re-exported when racing is over. It has been well received by the yachting fraternity.

I mention this example because defending the Americas Cup is a very major event for Auckland and for New Zealand. The Customs Service is doing its part to smooth the way for the participants in a way that is consistent with its responsibilities to maintain border protection.

As well as working on your agenda, I trust you will have some opportunities for relaxation. I recommend you take the bus tour that is on offer, so that you will see more of the city than just the interior of the hotel - attractive though it is. New Zealanders have a reputation for hospitality and friendliness. I suggest you put that reputation to the test. Some of you may like to come and see us again for a longer period on holiday. We would certainly welcome that.

And now I am happy to declare this meeting open.

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