Passenger to be investigated for carrying plants

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The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating an air passenger it nabbed carrying two concealed plants in her shirt.

Watchman, one of MPI’s most experienced detector dogs, sniffed out the plants on the passenger arriving from China at Auckland airport yesterday afternoon.  

The woman had rooted cuttings in a plastic bag hidden in her shirt sleeve and under a coat. 

“It appears the cuttings were to be planted and that this was a deliberate attempt to smuggle risk items into New Zealand,” says Craig Hughes,  MPI’s  Manager, North, Passenger and Mail.   

He says the cuttings have yet to be identified, but that they potentially posed serious biosecurity risk to New Zealand’s primary industries.  

“Any plant that hasn’t been through proper quarantine measures is a biosecurity risk. These arrived with potentially contaminated soil, so that increased the severity of the risk.” 

He says MPI currently has 35 dog teams working at airports and ports around the country to sniff out biosecurity items and that the number of teams would be increasing to 40  by the end of the year. 

“We recognise the valuable role that detector dog teams play in helping keep New Zealand free of unwanted pests and diseases.”   

If prosecuted and convicted, the woman who carried the plants faces prison for up to five years and/or a fine up to $100,000.

Photo of seized plants available on request.

Please note that this story is about the Ministry for Primary Industries, not NZ Customs.

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