Some travellers are able avoid a layer of border checks at Auckland Airport in a trial aimed at speeding up processing for far greater numbers.

About 200 frequent fliers are in the Streamlined Travel Trial, avoiding the sometimes testing arrival processes that enable low-risk travellers to complete border processes faster, while maintaining border requirements.

The trial ends in November and then could be rolled out more widely amid growing calls to make the journeys of millions of trans-Tasman travellers easier.

The trial scheme involves the Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Customs Service, Immigration New Zealand and the Aviation Security Service.


Trial participants are New Zealand citizens living in New Zealand, who are frequent trans-Tasman business travellers.

Following approval into the trial, if they have nothing to declare on arrival into New Zealand after passing through Customs, they have access to an electronic lane and can proceed directly to the green lane rather than go to MPI officers. Arrival cards are still required and sniffer dogs are in the green lane.

Trial participants must travel into New Zealand directly from Australia, without having been to any other country on that trip, and have nothing to declare on arrival.

Denise Hing, programme manager of the Trusted Border Programme for MPI, said the trial had been going for two months and feedback so far had been overwhelmingly positive from the participants.

"Because a large number of participants have only relatively recently joined the trial, we project use of the new process will lift significantly by the time the trial concludes at the end of November," she said.

A number of stakeholders including airlines were invited to nominate travellers who met the criteria for selection, and a number of high-frequency travellers were also approached directly.

Those who wished to participate then applied, agreeing to the trial terms and conditions.

Agencies verified "good compliance" with border laws and regulations as part of the approval process.


Transtasman traffic
•128 flights a day
•47,000 airline movements a year
•23 city pairs linked by 10 airlines
•6.97m journeys

Hing said participants had used the smart gate 130 times.

Auckland Airport's general manager aeronautical commercial Scott Tasker said anything that improved efficiency and made travel more seamless and quicker was positive and supported by the company.

Allowing travellers who deeply understood rules around quarantine and were of a lower risk freed resources for scrutinising more high-risk passengers.

Making travel easier between Australia and New Zealand has been on the political agenda for years but can slide down the priority list depending on other issues.

Tasker said the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, a high-level group, had made streamlined transtasman travel and tourism one of five priority areas.

"There will be a pulling together of a working group of industry and sector groups to map out what is the path forward to start working with border agencies to see what can be done."

The forum could provide a blueprint for governments to work from.

Earlier this month Australia's main tourism and transport group released a report outlining options for simplified border processing.

Tourism & Transport Forum Australia says sweeping reforms to streamline transtasman air travel, including immigration pre-clearance at the point of departure, integrated terminals handling both domestic and international flights, and use of the latest screening technology would drastically reduce the time spent in queues, while improving security at the border.

While government agencies, airlines and airports that contributed to the work don't believe a common border is achievable, they did indicate that streamlining the journey through pre-clearance options and initiatives would be a positive step towards a domestic-like travel experience, the report says.

Travel Agents Association of New Zealand chief executive Andrew Olsen said the report was a good start.

"To avoid this being a good report only, and we all remaining stuck in the same place whilst waiting for airlines, airports and border agencies to do what they should the TTF needs a symmetrical relationship through New Zealand," he said.

"The timing for doing that for either government right now is probably tricky and not a high-level priority. When they are ready we are. For all of us in the NZ's largest GDP contributing sector it cannot come soon enough."

New Zealand could soon follow Australia's lead in ditching departure cards.

Work is currently under way exploring options to replace millions of departure cards - which make up a portion of the departure information that Statistics NZ produces.

"We are exploring a wide range of options to enable us to eliminate the cards. We will be announcing more about that later in the year," said a Statistics NZ spokesman.

The department was assessing alternative sources of collecting the information and one of the possible avenues was increasing the use of the arrival information already captured when residents return from a short overseas visit.

Customs also gets information from departure cards and had done work on a smartphone app as an alternative but reportedly ditched the plan in 2014 after tests.