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MAF Quarantine Service officers kept busy at New Zealand's airports

MAF Quarantine Service officers continue to collect a monthly average of almost 10,000 biosecurity risk items such as meat and egg products from inbound airline travellers, according to MAF Biosecurity statistics for 2002.

Analysis by MAF Biosecurity's Border Management Group pointed to a slight decrease in the rate of total interceptions and seizures from 32 per thousand passengers in 2001 down to 31 per thousand passengers last year.

"With almost 3.7 million passengers to clear last year there were almost as many people arriving in New Zealand as the total population," said MAF Quarantine Service general manager Fergus Small. "Our message to every single person is the same - prevent the introduction of pests and diseases of animals and plants by making a full declaration. This applies as equally to the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders returning from overseas travel, as it does to the international tourists we attract each year.

"The fact that one in ten travellers are doing the right thing by declaring risk goods is a good measure for us of changing trends. Another helpful measure is the figures we receive on the instant fines introduced from June 2001 for non-compliance with New Zealand's strict biosecurity procedures. On average we are issuing more than 800 fines a month, with an obvious peak occurring during the recent holiday period," said Mr Small.

Figures for the six months July-December 2002 show a total of 4965 $200 fines were issued at New Zealand airports, with 1034 fines issued in December alone.

Half of all fines were for passengers who failed to correctly declare fresh produce considered to be fruit fly host material. The next largest category of enforceable infringement was for contaminated equipment (10 percent) followed by bee-related and meat products (8 and 7 percent respectively).

Although there was a slight increase of 0.5 percent in the number of passengers found with undeclared risk items in 2002, data for the July to December period indicated that infringements were levelling off - with the number of fines per thousand passengers dropping from 2.7 to 2.45.

"The numbers we are dealing with are huge so having this information gives us a source of encouragement and a way to both pick trends and target resources through initiatives such as the Protect New Zealand biosecurity awareness programme," said Mr Small.

Fines by airport for July-December 2002:

Auckland - 3709 (75%);

Christchurch - 832 (17%);

Wellington - 259 (5%);

Palmerston North - 59 (1.2%);

Dunedin - 47 (less than 1%);

Hamilton - 40 (less than 1%);

Queenstown - 19 (0.4 percent).

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