Fine for failing to declare risky plants

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Telephone: 029 894 0328

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) applauds the $3,300 fine dished out by the Mānukau District Court yesterday to an air traveller who deliberately failed to declare plant materials to quarantine officers.

Arriving at Auckland Airport from China in April, Ruifang Li ticked the "no" box next to the question on her declaration card asking whether she was bringing plants into New Zealand.

A baggage search revealed seeds concealed in 3 bags of food and in a hand towel. Two plant cuttings were also found in her baggage. Ms Li also pulled out a cutting from her jacket pocket during the inspection.

"We see Ms Li's actions as a calculated attempt to bring biosecurity risk items that could have been carrying dangerous pests or diseases," says Simon Anderson, MPI team manager investigations.

"It's great to see the courts are running out of patience with air passengers who try to smuggle risk goods into New Zealand."

The sentencing follows the recent $4,750 fine in the Mānukau District Court for a frequent traveller from Thailand, who failed to declare packets of seeds and fresh garlic bulbs.

There have been 9 biosecurity convictions for air travellers since October in Auckland, with the fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.

"New Zealanders are passionate about protecting our environment and natural resources. When passengers deliberately flout the rules they can expect to be investigated and prosecuted."

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