20 Apr 2009

Screening of trans Tasman luggage under review

3:24 pm on 20 April 2009

The Government is considering changing the way that luggage coming into New Zealand is screened to make trans-Tasman travel easier.

But Horticulture New Zealand warns any relaxation in X-raying or searching every piece of luggage coming into this country could put the horticulture industry at risk.

Papers obtained under the Official Information Act by Radio New Zealand reveal officials have been asked to look at whether it is necessary to screen every piece of luggage arriving at airports.

Biosecurity Minister David Carter says nothing will be done which puts New Zealand's biosecurity at risk.

Biosecurity Council chair Dr John Hellstrom says 100% screening of bags was intrroduced as an overreaction to a major outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain.

He believes profiling of travellers and seasonal checking of bags when some threats are greatest, would reduce costs.

Dr Hellstrom says screening technology has improved greatly over the years and targetting fewer bags would not increase the risk to bio-security.

Beekeepers' view

However, the National Beekeepers Association says the industry needs all bags checked to keep Australian pests and diseases out.

Chief executive Jim Edwards also says he wants to the use of passenger declaration cards continued, because it makes it easier to identify those who are likely to have brought pests and diseases into the country with them.

He says another important biosecurity measure is educating travellers about the risk of bringing goods into the country, and the best place to do that is on the aeroplane.