Fruit smuggler sent home

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An American traveller had her Easter visit to New Zealand cut short when she failed to declare a suitcase packed with fruit and vegetables to Christchurch biosecurity officers.

Ministry for Primary Industries staff detected the goods during x-ray screening of the passenger’s bag after she arrived on a flight from Sydney on Saturday morning.

She was forced to return to Sydney the same day on the next available flight after the matter was referred to Immigration New Zealand.

"The passenger admitted she was deliberately trying to smuggle the food into New Zealand. When asked why, she said didn't want to cause delays for her travelling companions and she wasn't sure what she could bring in," says Andrew Spelman, MPI Border Clearance Services Manager, Central and South.

"The suitcase included oranges, apples, avocados, sweet potato and carrots. We're talking potential host materials for a range of bugs could that devastate New Zealand's horticulture sector.

"The deliberate and reckless nature of her actions forced our hand. They needed to be dealt with more severely than a warning or a simple infringement notice.

"The decision to refuse the woman entry shows both MPI and Immigration New Zealand are prepared to take a tough stance on biosecurity when required.

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