Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Fewer customs searches at port

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Tauranga Port.
Tauranga Port.

Drugs, computer equipment, pornography and cigarettes have been seized from ships in Tauranga Harbour during the past five years.

In this time frame, two people have been prosecuted.

Information released to the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act revealed that in 2011 there were 58 searches of ships carried out at the Port of Tauranga, compared with just one in total last year.

In 2011, one person had six charges laid against them for importing objectionable publications on June 15.

This person was convicted and fined $1000 on each of the six charges plus court costs of $132.89 per charge.

A New Zealand Customs Service spokeswoman said the number of searches conducted each year depended on different priorities and focuses. In 2011 there was a spike in searches because of Operation League, which targeted objectionable material being imported into New Zealand.

Cigarettes were seized when they were over the duty-free limit, which is 50 cigarettes or 50g of cigars or tobacco products, and the passengers failed to declare them on their Passenger Arrival Card.

Computer hard drives were seized because they contained objectionable material, which were prohibited imports.

The spokeswoman said the number of searches sometimes did not match the number of different days on which items were seized because Customs often seized goods some time after the initial detainment.

"This is done so that a more thorough enquiry or investigation can be conducted, which better determines whether offences have been committed, and if they have been they can be summarised accurately and comprehensively."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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