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Biosecurity Officers Help Ease Airport Congestion

Biosecurity New Zealand thanks our staff and travellers for their help during the successful trial of an improved way to screen international arrivals at Auckland Airport over the school holidays.

“We want to thank our officers for their hard work,” says Mike Inglis, Northern Regional Commissioner, Biosecurity New Zealand.

“They have done a great job and continue to play an invaluable role in protecting New Zealand’s environment and primary exports while helping passengers when they arrive.

“They have shown professionalism and commitment in stepping up to address pressures on the international travel and border system both during and following the pandemic.

“We also want to thank travellers for their positive feedback and support in keeping New Zealand free of pests and diseases, which protects the vital work of farmers and growers,” says Mr Inglis.

The average biosecurity processing time for arriving passengers was close to nine minutes during the busy holiday period.

“The result continues a downtrend trend that has seen processing time drop from a high of 13.16 minutes in February.

“We are committed to working further with partner organisations, including the Public Service Association and Border Ops Association, Customs, airlines, and the airport, to introduce innovative border processing system improvements while maintaining strong biosecurity practices.”

As part of our recent work, Biosecurity New Zealand redeployed 20 officers from other parts of the ministry to assist during the school holidays.

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Biosecurity New Zealand also introduced a new way of processing low-risk passengers who have nothing to declare. The approach uses declaration information to select and risk-assess travellers after they pass through customs checks. Eligible passengers are then directed to the biosecurity express lane through a monitored door.

“We’re allowing low-risk travellers to exit biosecurity without going through baggage x-ray screening. The new approach allows eligible travellers to enter the lane without passing through our normal control area.”

Biosecurity New Zealand trialled the approach during the first week of the holidays. It was then used during peak arrival times for the remainder of the holiday period. More than 17,000 travellers went through the new process between 28 September and 8 October.

“The new approach, alongside the extra staffing, was successful in reducing pressure on the border system and decreasing biosecurity processing time. We have now embedded the improvements into our clearance procedures.

“Importantly, the approach does not undermine biosecurity. Selected low-risk passengers still undergo risk assessment by officers, screening by detector dogs, and other biosecurity checks.

Nationwide, Biosecurity New Zealand processed 489,894 arriving passengers in September, compared to 459,122 in August. During the two-week holiday, biosecurity officers issued 163 fines of $400 to air passengers who failed to declare goods that could bring pests or diseases into New Zealand.

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