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Speech To Welcome Increased Customs Staff

Speech To Welcome Increased Customs Investigation

Hon Rick Barker
Speech to welcome increased Customs drugs investigation staff, New Zealand Customs Service Building, Mayoral Drive - Mangere

Good morning. I'm very pleased to be here in Auckland today to meet and speak with you.

There are two reasons why I am here. The first is to congratulate the staff involved in several significant drug and precursor chemical interceptions.

Some of these seizures have made the news and some are still under active investigation. The key thing is that these substances never made it to their final destination.

The skills and methods needed to protect our border are changing. Increasingly, Customs uses analysis from our own intelligence teams and from overseas agencies.

Technology is also proving increasingly valuable - the ion track and x-ray machines, advanced computer information and other improvements are all helping you do your jobs better.

However, it still comes back to your skills and instincts in putting all this together.

It's about a Customs officer noticing that something just isn't right, and pursuing this suspicion.

It's about the hard yards that are put in behind the scenes - tracking down information, following up leads, and getting to the next level of the criminal supply chain.

That brings me to the second reason why I am here today, to welcome the staff who have now transferred to border drugs investigation duties.

I know Simon Williamson is eagerly awaiting each and every one of you. Eleven more staff will make a big difference to Customs' capabilities of stopping drugs and methamphetamine precursors at the border

In the last few weeks you have made a number of major interceptions, including the much-publicised 7kgs of cocaine, which I am told was destined for the Australian market. I'm pleased it did not make it.

I want to congratulate all involved in this and other significant seizures. All of you have made a difference.

It is likely your actions have saved lives.

Border patrol work is more complex today than at any time in history. The international environment has changed since 9-11.Screening of passengers and goods now requires assessing security risk as well as checking for contraband importation.

At the same time, you are dealing with more goods and passengers than ever before.

I'm pleased to report that the New Zealand Customs Service is clearly doing excellent work.

In Wellington last week I told Parliament that methamphetamine is the major border drug issue facing us.

Like all of us I have watched with continuing horror the growth in the manufacture and abuse of methamphetamine, also known as P, speed and ice in its purest form.

As Minister of Customs, I have seen bags containing just some of the one million unlicensed precursor tablets that Customs expects to seize at the border this year.

The cost to New Zealanders of P is significant. It is creating fear. It could affect tourism. It is causing abuse of children and partners. It is killing people. The more you stop at the border the better.

In May this year the Government released the Methamphetamine Action Plan. The plan was developed by the Ministerial Action Committee on drugs, which is led by Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton. It contains 19 steps and recommendations and the Government is working through these.

Some measures in the plan include moves to reduce supply, stop production, reduce demand and carry out further research of the drug's effects. The document is part of a whole-of-Government approach to dealing with methamphetamine.

As Minister of Customs and an ordinary New Zealander, I am highly concerned about this drug.

I have directed the New Zealand Customs Service to go through the Methamphetamine Action Plan and see what can be done to fast track its recommendations.

I particularly want to review the resources available for detecting and deterring the smuggling of precursors. I want to ensure that the legislative framework helps Customs do its job better.

I am urging my Cabinet colleagues to do the same.

Today I welcome some of you to new roles and congratulate the rest of you on a job well done.

Your work is keeping New Zealanders safe from this dangerous compound and others like it.

Kia Kaha - Be Strong.

ENDS


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