WELLINGTON — Travelers arriving in New Zealand will come under greater scrutiny from later this year as biosecurity officials step up screening for pests and diseases.
The Ministry for Primary Industries said Wednesday that it expected a series of measures to make it tougher for air passengers to carry restricted goods would be in place by December for the busy southern summer season.
The measures included the introduction of 20 more biosecurity detector dog teams, more X-raying of baggage and more targeting of passengers likely to be carrying risk goods.
One of the plans was to use detector dogs to screen passengers sooner after they left the aircraft, the ministry’s Border Clearance Services Director Steve Gilbert said in a statement.
“This approach will provide more opportunity to detect risk goods, particularly within hand-held baggage, where passengers often carry fruit and other food,” said Gilbert.
The rise in international passenger numbers was one of the reasons behind the new measures.
“Passenger arrivals are climbing 3.5 percent each year and continuing to grow. This growth is increasing the biosecurity risk to New Zealand,” said Gilbert.
“Another reason is the heightened threat posed by Queensland fruit fly host material arriving in New Zealand. There has been an increase in fruit fly populations in Australia and the fly has been spreading into previously pest-free areas.”
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy welcomed the strengthening of biosecurity measures, saying, “It’s important to note that we already have 100 percent screening of all passengers by biosecurity officers.”
The government announced in May that it would introduce a passenger border levy to fund biosecurity services a move that has drawn objections from the tourism industry.
New Zealand maintains a strict biosecurity regime to protect its agricultural industries and its unique indigenous flora and fauna.