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9 February 1998
Five travellers paid an instant fine of $200 each for failing to declare prohibited items when entering the country in a one-day trial exercise by the Ministry of Agriculture's Quarantine Service.
Prohibited items of uncooked meat and fruit were found in their possession by quarantine service officers at Auckland International Airport.
The pilot exercise, on January 22, was to see how long it would take to process fined passengers, as part of an effort to get instant fines in place permanently.
Instant fines were recommended as another deterrent for bringing in illegal goods after Mediterranean fruit fly was found in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill in 1996. It is believed the fruit fly arrived in smuggled fruit from overseas. The presence of fruit fly poses a threat to New Zealand's billion dollar horticulture industry.
The five passengers had the option of paying the instant fine or making a court appearance.
Fines collected go to the Government's consolidated funds.
The amendment (No4) to the Biosecurity Act, passed in November, made the provision for fining quarantine flouters. Previously, the Ministry's Quarantine officers had to prove the passenger had wilfully and knowingly brought a prohibited item into the country. Now it is no longer necessary to prove they intended to break the law.
"The risk to New Zealand's primary products from someone who negligently brings in a prohibited item is the same as someone who brings in mango deliberately, says Jockey Jensen, MAF's Enforcement Unit's national manager. "The ability to impose an instant fine proves how seriously New Zealand's biosecurity is taken. We want the instant fine to act as a deterrent."
Other measures introduced have been x-ray machines and beagle detector dogs at airports, and in-flight videos and public awareness campaigns.
The Ministry hopes the provision for instant fines will be in place at all New Zealand airports receiving overseas passengers by April.
For further information call Mike Alexander, National Advisor, Border Inspection,