Apples, honey most seized items at airport

Ministry for Primary Industries border clearance services K9 operations officer Greg Wilkinson and his detector dog, black Labrador Eden. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Forbidden fruit and nectar are some of the nearly 1000 items seized and destroyed by border officials at Dunedin Airport in the past five years.

Ministry for Primary Industries data released to The Star under the Official Information Act revealed there had been more than 920 items seized from travellers disembarking international flights at Dunedin Airport between 2014 and the end of April this year.

Some of the more unusual items seized and destroyed at Dunedin Airport in the past five years were a catfish, a cockroach, a turnip, a didgeridoo, two sets of juggling balls and three watermelons.

Apples and honey featured at the top of the list each year.

Officers destroyed 200 items seized from travellers at Dunedin Airport in the 16 months to the end of April this year.

The most seized items were honey (33), apples (14), food from animal origins (10), bananas (9), mandarins (7) and shells (7).

Of the 200 items, 22 were referred to the Department of Conservation under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulations.

CITES is an international agreement which regulates and monitors trade in animal and plant species to ensure it does not threaten their long-term survival in the wild.

The 22 referred items were coral (6), shells (7), reptilian parts (1), animal origin foods (6), crocodile or alligator meat (1) and reptile skin (1).

A ministry spokesman said he believed the reptile skin was a shed snake skin which had been collected by a child.

He asked travellers to declare any biosecurity-risk goods before they passed through border controls.

The Biosecurity New Zealand website states the penalty for a false declaration is a $400 instant fine, which does not constitute a criminal conviction.

However, if a traveller deliberately made an incorrect or false declaration to try to conceal items, they could be convicted of deliberate smuggling and fined up to $100,000 and be sentenced to up to five years’ prison.

Travellers can avoid the risk of making a false declaration, and getting a fine, by ensuring they know what is in their baggage and the baggage of anyone under the age of 18 travelling with them, the website says.