New machines step up biosecurity
The canine team at Queenstown includes Archie and Andy, Bruce and Bryn, Belle and Zeta.
With increasing numbers flying into New Zealand from all over the globe, the risk to this country’s very strategic and valuable biosecurity status has never been so threatened.
This has prompted the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to install the latest state-of-the-art biosecurity x-ray machines at the main international airports, the major points of entry for this country.
Four new biosecurity x-ray machines have been installed at Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown International Airports to ensure passengers don’t bring any unwanted pests or diseases into New Zealand.
An indication of how quickly the status of Queenstown has changed is the fact that only 10 years ago David Turner, of Crop and Food at Gore, used to travel to Queenstown once a week to process biosecurity for incoming passengers. At that time he had little experience of this and no technology to assist him, but today MPI has a fully trained and experienced staff at Queenstown to ensure biosecurity protocols are maintained.
The new machines will be used to scan baggage from overseas travellers for plant and animal products that pose biosecurity risk to New Zealand.
“The new x-rays are part of MPI’s ongoing commitment to strengthen New Zealand’s biosecurity system and are part of a larger programme to improve how we clear arriving air passengers,” says MPI Detection Technology manager Brett Hickman.
“X-ray screening is one of a range of bio-security tools we use to block destructive pests and diseases that could damage our primary industries and natural environment. The new machines will provide better reliability and increased capacity, along with improved image quality and functionality.
“This means border staff will be better equipped to spot biosecurity risk items before they enter New Zealand, and we will have the capacity to increase the level of screening during times of high alert.”
MPI has installed 19 new x-ray machines around the country over the past three years.
It currently owns and operates 27 x-ray units at international airports, the Auckland International Mail Centre and military bases. This includes a trailer-mounted mobile x-ray in Auckland. An additional new machine is earmarked for Wellington airport, and one more will shortly go into the International Mail Centre in Auckland.
In another move, four new K9 teams have joined Queenstown airport’s ranks to boost border and passenger security. Domestic and international travellers will now be greeted by a six-strong team of canine detectives for a friendly sniff-over to ferret out the likes of undeclared food, cash and illegal substances.
They will be deployed at key locations around the airport and will be highly visible at the Aviation Security (Avsec) departure screening point and the MPI Biosecurity international arrival checkpoint.
Avsec has introduced three new dogs to Queenstown to speed up security screening following the expansion of its explosive detector dog (EDD) programme. Rather than relying solely on X-ray machines, wands and thermal imaging, Archie the springer-kelpie, Bruce the collie-huntaway, Kye the black labrador and their respective handlers Andy, Bryn and Amon, now provide a fast, reliable roving service for passenger, bag, aircraft and vehicle searches.
The EDD programme will also see Queenstown Airport become a training ground for rescue puppies sourced from the SPCA, pounds and rescue organisations around the country.
The Customs frontline continues to be patrolled by a nationwide detector dog team tasked with sniffing out large quantities of cash or drugs being brought across the border. More dogs are in training and will be ‘super subbed’ into Queenstown as required.
So where do our canine friends stay and play? Avsec has installed doggy day care kennels next to its office and, as with their Customs colleagues, the dogs go home with their handlers at night. The MPI dogs have plenty of social time during the day, but because of the nature of their work they must be housed in a clean environment devoid of household smells so are transferred to a palatial two-room doggy apartment after work.
- Report by John King, photographs by Lance Lawson & Peter Owens.
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