Border officials have sent two foreign air passengers back to Shanghai after they tried to smuggle a large quantity of edible bird nests through Auckland airport.
The nests were found this week by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) quarantine officers after x-ray screening indicated organic material in the passengers’ luggage.
The nests were found in a vacuum-packed blanket. The passengers, who had travelled to New Zealand from China for the birth of their grandchild, had denied carrying any biosecurity risk items.
“We believed the action was a deliberate smuggling attempt of an item that could have carried avian diseases with the potential to wipe out New Zealand’s native and commercial bird populations,” says Craig Hughes, MPI’s Northern Border Clearance Manager, Passengers and Mail.
As a result of the find, immigration officials refused the couple entry permission to the country. They returned to Shanghai on Tuesday night.
“This is an example of MPI and Immigration New Zealand working closely together to curtail biosecurity offences at the border,” says Hughes.
“The action is a strong message to smugglers who show contempt for our economy and environment – you can be sent packing without stepping a foot over our border.”
Edible bird nests are regarded as a delicacy in some Asian countries. They are among the most expensive foods in the world.
Photo available on request.
NB. This biosecurity interception was made by the Ministry for Primary Industries, not NZ Customs.