Minister of Customs Meka Whaitiri officially launched Customs’ new outreach campaign, Border Protect, in Opua today. This campaign encourages members of the public to report potential suspicious activities to Customs and help protect New Zealand.
Border Protect is an information campaign that Customs will run across the country that focuses on the coastline, sea ports, marinas, airports, and Customs-controlled Areas such as international freight arrival and storage points.
It aims to educate people who work or live in these areas about what cross-border criminal activities look like, and encourage them to report it through a confidential 24/7 hotline 0800 WE PROTECT or to someone in their local Customs team.
“The Border Protect campaign is for people who are a part of certain industries and communities, and explains how they can help to identify possible cross-border crimes such as drug smuggling and help protect our whānau.
“We know that criminals have continued their illicit drug trade, despite COVID-19, and are agile in adapting their smuggling methods. For this reason, Customs must remain vigilant – and this is where everyone can play a part,” she says.
“Even a small snippet of information, no matter how trivial it might seem, could fit into a bigger puzzle and be exactly what law enforcement agencies were seeking to take down the criminal network involved – you could make a real difference.
“Illicit drugs harm our whānau, our businesses and our way of life, with some of our most vulnerable communities being the most affected. In addition to the Government’s health-based initiatives, Customs’ role remains critical in order to disrupt the supply of illegal drugs from reaching our shores.
Speaking to community and industry representatives at the Bay of Islands Marina this morning, Minister Whaitiri highlighted that Northland remains a key focus for Customs as it has one of the most accessible parts of New Zealand’s coastline, and Opua is the main hub for international yacht arrivals and departures.
Notes to editors
In 2020, Customs established an Opua-based maritime team and equipped them with a 9 metre vessel – Āraia – to conduct outreach and patrol activities. This team will now also help to spread the word about Border Protect. Outreach teams in Auckland and Christchurch will focus on Customs-controlled areas.
· Budget 2018 allocated an additional $58.1 million including $3.9 million capital funding to Customs, over four years, to boost its capabilities to fight international drug smuggling networks targeting New Zealand.
· This Government investment enabled a 10 per cent larger workforce, mainly in operational roles including the Customs outreach teams in Opua, Auckland, and Christchurch, new intelligence capabilities, and international posts to disrupt the flow of drugs destined for New Zealand and target overseas criminal networks.
· The capital investment was used to build the Opua-based vessel Āraia (which means to ‘stop’, ‘prevent’ or ‘block’) in addition to other initiatives. The vessel has excellent manoeuvrability, a cruising speed of 30 knots, is small enough to transport around the region by road, and can patrol in secluded coastal areas.
Information on signs of cross-border crime that can be visible in communities, workplaces and around New Zealand’s coast can be found here: https://www.customs.govt.nz/report
· Members of the public can report their suspicions by calling 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768) confidentially or anonymously.
Media contact: Steve Webb – 021 830 842