New Zealand has tough, bordering on atrocious biosecurity laws, rightly so, 70% of flora and fauna is uniquely native to New Zealand and not to be found in any other country of the world. There is a real need to protect from pests ( if protecting native species is of importance). I won’t bring in my crazy ideas of infinitely mutable life forms transiently present few millennia, only to evolve out to other species. Let us assume plain vanilla Newtonian Darwinian view of Universe, all life is physical and only moderately change and its imperative to protect them. ( Globally a losing battle ). I respect this regardless of the fact that this 15 billion earth years old physical universe may have been created and dissolved countless times ( possible ! ).
Back to non-infinity and mundane.
Now, if you bring to NZ any food and do not declare on the Passenger Arrival Card, you get an instant slap on your face ( err. debit in your bank statement, 400$ to 100,000$.)
You would believe that after being a New Zealand citizen and living here for over seven years, I would be aware of it, right I was and am!
Still I was fined few months back, in instant infringement notice at the airport for bringing in Salad which I bought at Sydney airport, which I also declared on the Passenger arrival card ! I refused to pay the fine and was furious at the airport at biosecurity officers, lost my cool and vowed to reach Prime Minister until this matter is resolved and I am allowed scot free.
A game of tricks
Well, I did not know that I will be questioned in person on the airport, trick questions, hard to dodge mental mind bends by those who play the game at the airport 24*7. I play this game of customs couple of times a year. So effectively I can’t beat the best poker player in town as I practise it only 10 minutes, twice a year.
I vowed to fight tooth and nail, even if involves a protracted legal battle. Most of the people give up after initial anger, one person is small, Govt. is large and formidable, anger and hurt soothe after few day and normal Jo ends up paying 400$ fine. This is what most of my colleagues ended up. One of them calls is “Tirupati Donation” a fee to be paid at Temple for homage.
I chose a different path this time because I believed this is a very subjective terrain and felt a moral obligation to fight.
What did I do wrong?
I was asked question at the airport regarding who packed the bags ?
I answered, myself, most people do that. ( It is a wrong answer). It trapped me. Correct answer always is myself and family and I don’t know all the contents of the bag, always !
Next, I was asked to name food items I was bringing.
I named 12 out of 13 but not the 13thone. ( If I were bringing 129 food items would I be able to recall all 129 from memory ? )
NZ Biosecurity Officer warned, “You bought the salad 3 hours back at Sydney airport, you should have been able to recall from memory”, disregarding that I had a 42 hours flight from New York.
I lost it, and was yelling at all the cops at airport and was escorted by a an armed gunman to calm down. Fine would be the last thing I would have paid. When I had already declared Salad, in writing, on the only legal document that I was supposed to fill in, i.e. Passenger Arrival Card, why is my memory test being taken?
I had traumatic sleepless night on the day. I did not accept the defeat. I noticed that the system was designed to protect NZ flora and fauna has degenerated to revenue minting process.
I prepared a solid two page letter with help from few friends and wife, challenging the infringement notice, requesting a court hearing and started preparing for court battle.
Finally I was waived from fine. I do not have the energy to fight the system to request for a review of the whole immigration interrogation process. Hence this blog post to warn any potential visitor to a) No bring any food, plant, wood, feather, or any animal product to New Zealand or b) Declare it on passenger arrival card & if asked any question at airport about what you are bringing, not naming food items from memory, but either pretending memory loss or open all suitcases and name one by one EVERY food item by physically sighting it. Option a) seems easier if you want to save on 400$ on your next visit to New Zealand.
I have a lot to add but will stop here.