Year’s food import fines near $3 million

An apple a day lets our Customs make hay.

Fruit and food brought into the country by tourists and not declared is turning into something of a cash cow for the government.

Figures released under the Official Information Act showed Biosecurity New Zealand, in the year to November 28 last year, issued 7485 infringements to passengers at the country’s four international airports for tourists illegally bringing in food and fruit.

At $400 an infringement, fines would have tallied just under $3 million.

The fruit and other food brought into the country was varied, but apples were far and away the most illegally brought-in food.

Considering the country produces hundred of thousands of tonnes of apples a year — 343,000 tonnes of apples were exported in 2022 — it is rather odd to consider why tourists are bringing apples into the country.

There were 1837 people prosecuted for bringing apples into the country and not declaring them.

Bananas — which again are not usually in short supply in New Zealand — were next, with 883 fines.

The list of foods is a long one, with more than 500 fines handed out for bringing in cooked meat.

Unbelievably there were more than 30 fines handed out for not declaring kiwifruit.

Most of the fines were handed out at Auckland International Airport.

Biosecurity New Zealand border clearance service commissioner north Mike Inglis said Biosecurity New Zealand had strict rules and strong protective measures in place to prevent pests and diseases entering the country and damaging its $57billion primary sector export industry.

It had a "declare or dispose" public information campaign which helped educate inbound travellers about strict biosecurity requirements.

In addition, offshore campaigns were delivered in China, India and Australia, targeting those considering a trip to New Zealand.

Biosecurity NZ frontline teams have also recently introduced biosecurity hosts to greet international travellers and ensure they know how to navigate the biosecurity system.

Travellers may be issued a warning rather than an infringement notice in certain circumstances, such as the passenger being in emotional distress, 17 or younger, or having a serious health condition.

The fines are considered a "strict liability" offence, which means someone can break the law even if they did not mean to — like a speeding ticket or parking fine. Passengers are issued an infringement notice when they receive a fine.

Where someone tries to intentionally bring in banned items, Biosecurity New Zealand can prosecute the person involved.

Airport Infringements

Auckland:               5192
Christchurch:           781
Queenstown:          905
Wellington:              607
Total:                     7485

The items involved

 Item                    Auckland     Christchurch     Queenstown     Wellington
 Apple                       1282                 214                       202                   139
Banana                       631                   92                        105                    55
Mandarin                    471                  129                         84                     61
Cooked Meat            386                   25                        120                    23
Honey                        253                   62                        83                     42
Pork meat                  277                   34                         32                     54
Orange                      272                    41                         28                     20
Chicken meat            198                      5                           8                     23
Other                          155                    17                           11                     31
Chicken egg              157                    23                          19                      5
Pear                             87                     14                         23                     10
Lemon                         61                       8                          10                      1
Beef meat                   93                      2                           7                     15
Tomato                        47                      4                           8                      9
Mango                         54                      6                           2                      2
Lime                             50                      5                          5                      2
Plum/Pluots                  30                    10                          9                      9
Pork/sausage casing   41                      4                           3                     10
Avocado                       33                     4                           7                       3
Kiwifruit                         23                     4                          11                       1

- Staff reporter



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