BiosecurityNew Zealand relaxes passenger X-ray screening requirement

Published 5 October 2011

To save money and speed up the processing of international passengers, New Zealand no longer requires 100 percent screening of bags of passengers entering the country; Kiwi farmers are worried about the move carry the risk of introducing animal disease into the country; the 100 percent screening mandate was imposed after a foot and mouth outbreak in 2001

New Zealand farmers are worried about new bio security threats following reports that hundreds of thousands of travelers have been allowed to enter the country without having their bags X-rayed at the airport. The move away from 100 percent X-ray screening has helped slash airport processing times, as part of moves to streamline trans-Tasman travel.

Travel msnreports that after a foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 the government mandated that all passenger bags entering New Zealand be searched or X-rayed.

Now, however, Australia and New Zealand passport holders may be eligible to use what is called a “direct exit path.” It works in two ways. Inspectors from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) look for low risk passengers as they wait for their bags. If they passengers are not declaring anything, they may be issued a stamp, which means they can walk straight out.

Alternatively, passengers may be allowed to bypass the X-ray machine as they go down the exit path.

Travel msnnotes that the direct exit path was first installed at Auckland Airport in October last year and in the last seven months they have been installed at all other international airports around the country.

Since their introduction more than 271,000 people have walked straight out of airports without any X-rays.

The Kiwi agriculture industry is worried, but MAF insists its new risk based approach is just as safe as 100 percent X-ray screening. “In an ideal world, if money was no object, we would search everyone coming into this country, but we would have massive queues,” says MAF’s Auckland Airport manager Craig Hughes.

The relaxation of the X-ray screening mandate has already led to a quicker processing of international passengers – from an average of twenty-eight minutes to just over fourteen minutes.

The relaxation will also help MAF achieve around AU$18 million in its budget in the next year.