Ministers reject merging proposal

Media Release: New Zealand Government

29 August 2000

Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle and Biosecurity Minister Marian Hobbs have today confirmed that border control services will not be merged following an independent review.

The review was undertaken last year, after the previous government undertook an investigation into options for improving efficiencies and effectiveness in border control services. The review team was headed by Sir Ron Carter.

The review recommended setting up a single quarantine and customs agency to improve border services. However, both ministers rejected the proposal saying structural changes could disrupt existing risk management work done by Customs and Biosecurity staff and consume precious border control resources.

"This government clearly recognises the need for improved border control and this does require the Customs and biosecurity agencies to work better together.

"However, we doubt that the cost of structural change is justified to achieve improved border services. Our officials have assured us these efficiencies can be achieved without merging the two agencies," the ministers said.

Marian Hobbs said the decision met Labour's election promise to properly organise and resource border control as well as maintaining a border agency dedicated to biosecurity.

"Biosecurity is maintained by work done, not just at the border, but before it's reached and once across," Marian Hobbs said. "This effort would be better protected by keeping separate agencies."

The Ministers said both Customs and MAF were eager to step up the fight against biosecurity risks.

"We see real value and place great importance on maintaining close liaison between all border control services such as Customs, Immigration and MAF," Phillida Bunkle said.

The ministers have asked Customs and MAF to investigate closely options for strategic and operational cooperation, and information and risk assessment.

"A work programme has been set up to look closely at the practicality of these options, the potential benefits and how the suggested improvements could be implemented," the ministers said.

"As a government we are committed to protecting New Zealand's border from the many threats it faces, and part of achieving effectiveness is ensuring that the various border control agencies work within a unified strategy," they said.

Interested parties will soon be invited to contribute to the work being done.

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