New biosecurity measures will be introduced by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to make it tougher for air passengers to bring goods that could carry pests or diseases into New Zealand.
The measures are the result of new biosecurity funding from the Government’s 2015 budget.
Expected to be in place by December for the busy summer season, the measures include the introduction of 20 more biosecurity detector dog teams, more x-raying of baggage and more targeting of passengers likely to be carrying risk goods.
One of the plans is to use detector dogs to screen passengers much earlier than before in the arrival process for international passengers, says Steve Gilbert, MPI Border Clearance Services Director.
“We’re keen to have dogs as close as possible to where passengers leave the aircraft. This approach will provide more opportunity to detect risk goods, particularly within hand-held baggage, where passengers often carry fruit and other food.”
Rising international passenger numbers is one of the reasons behind the new measures, he says.
“Passenger arrivals are climbing 3.5% each year and continuing to grow. This growth is increasing the biosecurity risk to New Zealand.
“Another reason is the heightened threat posed by Queensland fruit fly host material arriving in New Zealand. There has been an increase in fruit fly populations in Australia and the fly has been spreading into previously pest-free areas.”
He says MPI recently recruited 42 new trainee quarantine officers and 24 trainee dog handlers to ensure it has sufficient biosecurity staff to introduce the new measures.
The planned new biosecurity measures include:
- introducing 20 new biosecurity detector dog teams.
- introducing 5 new x-ray machines.
- trialling a mobile x-ray machine that can shifted to different sites.
- greater ability to increase the level of biosecurity intervention for air passengers according to risk.
- introducing specific communications to target passengers more likely to carry Queensland fruit fly host materials.