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An update on aviation security within NZ

From The New Zealand Aviation Security Service

Focus On Security

An update on aviation security within New Zealand

HEIGHTENED AWARENESS Recent events in Iraq have again raised awareness of security issues, and aviation security in particular. While New Zealand is relatively isolated from conflicts elsewhere, the Aviation Security Service (Avsec) is continuing to maintain a high level of alertness. Whatever is happening in other parts of the world, we aim to ensure that aviation services continue to operate in and out of New Zealand. That goal, however, will not compromise our primary concern to keep our skies safe.

ADDITONAL MEASURES We will continue to work closely with government agencies and airlines to monitor intelligence, manage the risk and apply appropriate security measures to protect aviation. Measures over and above what have already been instituted may be required if a perceived or real threat escalates – some of these measures will be obvious to the travelling public, others will be behind the scenes. It is important to understand that Avsec is obliged to apply security requirements of foreign regulators and airlines, not only those within New Zealand. This means that passengers will experience different levels of security, depending on which airline they are using and where they are going. In the past 18 months, for example, we have seen heightened security on United States airlines and for carriers bound for the United States. Those measures may be increased, or widened to include other countries and airlines if an incident or threat occurs elsewhere.

MINIMUM INCONVENIENCE It is possible that sections of airport terminals will be segregated to ensure that additional security measures can be applied efficiently. However, while we seek to achieve optimum security, we want such measures to be as least intrusive as possible. We will be talking to airport operators and the airlines about this to ensure there is minimum inconvenience to the public. Some disruption to airline schedules might also occur as the result of any new security measures. Passengers may have to report for their flights earlier than at present – they should always check with their airline.


RELINQUISHED ITEMS Avsec is continuing to require passengers to relinquish items that passengers now know they are prohibited from carrying with them onto the aircraft – all knives and sharp instruments, including tools. We again urge passengers to “think before you pack”. If they must travel with these items, we urge them to pack the items in their suitcase (to go in the aircraft hold) or leave it behind. In cases where the item has been relinquished and has genuine value to its owner, we will make every endeavour to return it, or hold it so it can be picked up when the passenger returns.

LAPTOPS A note also about laptop computers and other electronic goods. They are physically examined and X-rayed. Passengers do not need to remove the batteries. The same requirements now operate in Australia, where batteries previously had to be removed. Similar requirements apply for flights to the United States, although passengers also have to demonstrate that the device operates for the purpose intended.

NO JOKE In today’s world, aviation security is a serious business. That is not to say that Avsec officers do not have a sense of humour – it is a necessary part of a demanding job. However, some passengers still think it is funny to suggest they have a bomb in their bag or a gun in their pocket. Several such instances have occurred recently. We have no choice in these times of high threat but to take all such remarks seriously. The result is embarrassment for the passenger as he or she is prevented from travelling, and the strong possibility of charges being laid under the Civil Aviation Act. Other passengers suffer because of the inevitable delay to the flight, which also costs the airline and airport dearly.

BACKGROUND TO AVSEC The New Zealand Aviation Security Service is a Crown-owned entity, reporting through a board of directors to the Ministry of Transport. It has developed a strategic three-year vision – complying with the Government’s vision – in consultation with strategic partners which include international and domestic airlines, airport companies, the Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Transport, Police and Customs and significant overseas regulatory bodies such as the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Avsec’s activities are mainly the screening of international (and since September 11, 2001, domestic) departing passengers and their baggage for dangerous items, access controls and patrolling of the security-designated areas, and the searching of international aircraft for security purposes. It operates out of seven airports, in order of size Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Dunedin, Palmerston North, and Queenstown. In a December 1998 review of the Service, PriceWaterhouseCoopers reported that the Service was highly regarded by all major stakeholders. Avsec was the inaugural winner of the 2000 SATS/Edith Cowan University award for the best aviation security organisation in the Asia/Pacific region. During a visit to Avsec by United States Embassy officials and the FAA only weeks after September 11, an FAA official said he believed Avsec to be one of the best aviation organisations in the world. Avsec has a strong strategic vision, excellent leadership, development of high standards and an emphasis on its people. It has looked at how similar organisations have operated overseas and taken the best from them and developed plans and processes that work for local conditions. Avsec manages well, rotates staff so they retain an interest in the job, and involves and communicates with staff so they know and understand their role.

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