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Significant boost to New Zealand's border security

Significant boost to New Zealand's border security

Trade and border security will be strengthened from this year with significant new budget funding to protect the export supply chain and lessen the threat of terrorism to New Zealand and its trading partners.

"Our economy relies on foreign trade and about 15 per cent of that is in exports to the United States. Post-September 11, the US has set down new trade security guidelines and the onus is now on exporting countries to meet those guidelines," said Customs Minister Rick Barker.

"The guidelines centre largely on the security of exports shipped in containers to the US. If New Zealand does not meet these requirements, our exporters could experience severe difficulties in getting their goods into the US, putting at risk billions of dollars in foreign exchange.

"Other countries and international organisations, including APEC and the World Customs Organisation, are also working on new trade security protocols.

"To secure New Zealand's trade in the new international environment, Customs has received new budget funding to buy cargo x-ray technology and other resources," Mr Barker said.

The package includes:

An almost $9 million ($8.978m) increase in operating expenditure for trade security. Investment in x-ray technology of between $15 million and $25 million (subject to a commercial tender process). Employment of up to 130 additional staff. "The new technology will be phased in over the next two years to increase the screening of high-risk imports and exports at all New Zealand seaports.

"The x-ray screening programme is designed to cause least disruption to trade flows and will feature a mix of truck-mounted x-rays, capable of examining a fully packed shipping container, smaller fixed site and mobile x-rays, and physical inspections, including the use of sniffer dogs," Mr Barker said.

Customs expects to be able to screen between 6000 and 12,000 containers a year once the equipment is fully deployed in 2004-05.

"It is vital New Zealand is not seen as 'soft touch' or potential transit point for terrorist activities or other trans-national organised crime," Mr Barker said.

Other Customs' budget allocations are:

$1.98 million to employ 16 new investigative staff for border drug enforcement; $1 million for increased audit capability to ensure all taxes and duties owing on imports are collected (12 new staff). Customs now has 817 staff (FTE's). This will increase by approximately 20 percent as a result of this year's budget increase.

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