I couldn’t believe it!
Recently I was talking to an international friend and in conversation, she said she would never come to New Zealand. I was taken aback. In the years I spent overseas and talking to people in other countries online I have never met anyone that has not wanted to visit New Zealand. Their motive may have been to see ‘Middle Earth’ from the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ movie franchise or they may have been attracted to its many other natural qualities. But never had I met someone that was a definite ‘I never want to go to New Zealand’. I had to know more.
It turns out she had seen a New Zealand TV show called ‘Border Control’. It is one of those TV shows that follow airport customs officers around as they investigate passengers entering the country. The episode my friend referenced was about a woman who was fined for bringing a piece of fruit into the country. My friend was shocked! That whole incident put her off. The image she was left with was that New Zealand is unfriendly to foreigners.
I had to fix this…
This got me thinking. So first I went and watched a few episodes of the show to get a feel for what they do. I couldn’t find the exact episode but found the gist of how the show went. I can see how as a snapshot it would seem over the top and unnecessary treatment of people. But I also found that in all instances of infraction the officers gave every opportunity for the incoming travellers to help themselves from getting into trouble, they also gave a lot of leeway for mistakes. I thought I would write this post to explain why these rules are in place.
We need customs officers…
Anyone entering New Zealand has to realise one major point. New Zealand is a country made of isolated islands. New Zealand doesn’t share a border with any other country. The only border is the sea. This has its ups and its downs. New Zealand has many beautiful flora and fauna and the fact there is no connecting landmass does a lot to keep it that way. The biggest risk is people. You may carry a bag of fruit into the country for you to eat but you cannot be sure what stowaways that fruit is harbouring.
The introduction of pests into New Zealand can have devastating effects. plant life can harbour disease, insects and other organisms that if introduced into the native environment could wipe out crops, native trees or have an effect on native wildlife. New Zealand is trying to prevent the destruction of native species. That is something we as New Zealanders take very seriously, and so should you. Without those species, New Zealand wouldn’t be the attractive beautiful place it is and you wouldn’t want to see it.
If in doubt, declare!
When you enter New Zealand there are signs positioned everywhere about declaring certain items. These items could be food, plant-life or animals. Depending on where you have been and what you have been doing even your shoes may need to be declared. Even a pair of hiking boots can carry disease like foot and mouth etc. A disease like that could have serious consequences for our agricultural sector.
The key is to declare everything if you think it fits into the guidelines specified. You won’t get into trouble if you declare it. Sure you may lose the item in question but better to lose an apple than having a $400 fine to start your holiday.
Fines do happen, but…
Travellers are given fines. I can sympathise to the traveller that gets one from a piece of fruit. In saying that there are plenty of chances to not let the situation arise. Before leaving the plane you are issued with a Declaration Card. You are required to fill this form in before you go through customs. All the way from the plane to customs there are signs provided to remind you. There are even rubbish bins provided to dispose of anything not permitted. By the time the fine hits your hand you really haven’t got a reason to complain.
If in doubt, declare it. You can always discuss the item at that point.
New Zealand’s Entry Form
Have a look at the current Entry Form with all the required information. You will fill one of these out on the plane before landing.
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