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Jim Eagles: A dog of a time through Customs

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Travelling pets aren't likely to be cleared by customs quickly. Photo / Thinkstock
Travelling pets aren't likely to be cleared by customs quickly. Photo / Thinkstock

If you're moving back from Australia to New Zealand - going against the tide - you're better off not being a dog.

The agencies at Auckland Airport have made a huge effort to cut processing time for human passengers (they're hoping to get it down to an average of 25 minutes by June next year). And for people coming from Australia it should be even quicker, thanks to electronic passports, SmartGate and plans for more efficient biosecurity processing.

But the Lean Six Sigma process which is achieving that improvement seems to have bypassed pet passengers.

I discovered this when my wife and I had to go to the airport early one morning to collect our younger daughter and youngest grandchild as the first echelon of a family return to the Land of the Long White Cloud. The flight from Perth arrived 20 minutes early and the baggage handling and processing must have gone well because our two passengers emerged only a few minutes after we reached the arrivals area.

But then we had to collect the second echelon, the two family dogs which had arrived on the same flight (both, like the humans, originally from New Zealand), and that was a different story.

The information sheet provided by Air NZ said we first had to go their cargo imports centre to collect the waybill, then proceed to MAF for clearance, next head across the airport to Customs for processing, then return to the cargo centre with the papers from MAF and Customs to pay the clearance fee, and finally go round the corner to the cargo import warehouse to collect the dogs.

We also had to pick up the crates in which they travelled (well, actually the letter said, "The dogs the cat travelled in is yours to take home," but I worked out that might be a mistake) so we had to do all this while towing a trailer.

To further complicate things, because it was still fairly early most of the offices weren't open so we had to find the after-hours entrances. And since the Customs centre in Tom Pearce Drive was closed altogether we had to track down a Customs office deep in the bowels of the mezzanine floor of the international terminal. That was a little difficult but the lady on the airport help desk pointed us in the right direction to locate the after hours buzzer and that did the trick.

Everyone involved in this process was extremely pleasant and helpful. One kindly chap at the cargo centre even took one of the dogs for a walk and another helped me load the crates into the trailer.

But we were a bit puzzled at being required by Customs to fill out three forms which they didn't actually want. And, though I certainly understand the need for strict biosecurity controls, the process did seem unnecessarily convoluted.

The dogs were pretty pleased to see us but judging by the look in their eyes I think they'd have been even happier if they'd been cleared in 25 minutes like their humans.

- NZ Herald

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