Busy summer for MPI biosecurity staff

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

Faced with record numbers of international visitors this summer, Ministry for Primary Industries biosecurity staff have intercepted risk goods ranging from the bizarre to the potentially devastating for New Zealand’s economy and environment.

Some of the unusual interceptions so far this summer include:

  • A chilly bin of live spanner crabs from Thailand presented to officers at Wellington Airport.
  • Fruit fly larvae in mangos found at Auckland Airport inside a suitcase from Malaysia jammed full of plant produce and other food.
  • Freshwater fish from Thailand found crawling with maggots at Auckland Airport.
  • Two brown marmorated stink bugs found during a search of a tent used by a traveller arriving at Auckland Airport from the United States.
  • Untreated spring water from Fiji believed to have healing properties. Known as miracle water, travellers have to pay for heat treatment if they want to bring the product into New Zealand.

MPI screened 684,407 air passengers for biosecurity risk in January, an increase of more than 10% (64,121) from January 2016.

It intercepted some 12,600 biosecurity risk items in January. Of these, 1,829 were undeclared.

"The interceptions show New Zealand's biosecurity system is holding up well in the face of huge numbers of arriving passengers, many of whom have little knowledge of biosecurity,"

says Craig Hughes, MPI's Manager North Passenger and Mail.

"We did a lot of work last year to gear up for the busy summer, including employing nearly 30 new quarantine officers.

"Most of the new staff have been working on the search benches at Auckland Airport to check the baggage of passengers identified as high risk.

"We've also introduced more staff to make biosecurity risk assessments of passengers at the airport. This, coupled with recent layout changes and a new x-ray machine for screening baggage, has allowed speedier processing and improved biosecurity."

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