Bird nest delicacy earns $15,000 fine

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Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

A North Shore man was fined $15,000 in Manukau District Court last week (30 July) for trying to illegally import a Chinese delicacy that threatens New Zealand’s poultry industry and native birds.

Tian Chi Lee, 40, of North Shore, had earlier pleaded guilty to a Biosecurity Act charge of knowingly attempting to possess unauthorised goods – 68 dried birds’ nests. He was fined $15,000.

Bird’s nests are a Chinese delicacy made from the saliva secretions of the swiftlet bird. Swiftlets can carry a number of significant avian diseases not found in New Zealand.

The offending involved a package sent from Malaysia in January marked as biscuits and addressed to a “Mr David” at an address on the North Shore.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) x-ray equipment at the international mail centre identified the package contained organic material and it was found to contain 68 birds’ nests.

An investigation uncovered that “Mr David” was in fact Mr Lee. He admitted that his brother in Malaysia had sent the birds’ nests with a false declaration to a fictitious person because both of men knew they were not allowed in New Zealand.

MPI Northern Passenger and Mail Manager Craig Hughes says the birds’ nests can potentially host serious avian diseases such as the avian influenza Newcastle disease.

An outbreak of Newcastle disease amongst poultry in New South Wales in 2001 cost the government $A26 million to eradicate, and involved the mass destructions of birds. Some of these avian diseases could devastate native bird species in New Zealand.

“New Zealand is fortunate not to have many of the pests and diseases that affect other parts of the world and this gives our agriculture industry a competitive advantage.

“We have a robust biosecurity system in place to stop these pests from making it to New Zealand. Deliberately trying to avoid this system creates a huge risk and the fine reflects that.”

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