Customs has seized 102,277 items from ships coming into the Port of Tauranga for unpaid duty tax or infringed intellectual property rights since 2009 - and Retail NZ says smuggling is a big problem.

Figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times from Customs under the Official Information Act show there were 35,541 clothing accessories, 27,225 household items, 25,276 items of clothing and 14,235 toys which entered the country without being declared.

Customs also intercepted 69,060 cigarettes, cigars and tobacco over the same timeframes.

The Port of Tauranga is now the largest port in New Zealand but data revealed more undeclared goods had been seized through the Ports of Auckland with 219,979 clothing, household items and toys plus 379,045 tools and 242,929 cigarettes, cigars and tobacco.


Customs communications and events director Simon Lambourne said when goods were found that were undeclared, misdeclared or undervalued for revenue evasion, they could be detained and released back to the importer if duty and GST was paid - or they could be formally seized.

Items that breached trademark and copyright could be destroyed or released to the importer if the rights holder decided to take no action.

Port of Tauranga acting chief financial officer Steve Gray said the port worked closely with both Customs and police to assist their work in patrolling borders.

Port staff were also trained to report any unusual activity. Recently, its security staff challenged five crew members attempting to leave a log vessel with large bags.

''The crew returned to the ship and the port staff informed Customs. It is likely they prevented a black market cigarette smuggling attempt and the team was formally recognised by Customs.''

Retail NZ public affairs general manager Greg Harford said reputable retailers and importers spent a significant amount of money, time and effort complying with all the rules and regulations on goods coming into the country.

''People who smuggle goods can typically sell those goods at a lower price, and the products may not meet New Zealand labelling or safety products, posing a risk for consumers.''

Retail NZ was pleased Customs actively intercepted goods - ''but it is a big problem''.


''For example, black market tobacco is huge - with a study by KPMG showing that up to a third of tobacco smoked in New Zealand is brought in illegally and sold without having excise tax paid on it or it complying with plain packaging regulations.''

Acting Minister of Customs Iain Lees-Galloway said the ministry recognised the impact of undeclared goods on honest businesses and was committed to prevention.

''We remain vigilant to the individuals and organisations who intentionally seek to flout regulations for their own profit.''

Downtown Tauranga's Sally Cooke said business owners and operators were constantly challenged by changing consumer trends and technology.

Online had changed the face of how some people shopped.

''For our members, when it comes to the instore, point of sales experience for customers, it is about ensuring that it is an engaging and customer-centric experience.

"Whilst online sales continue to grow consumers still seek the personalised 'above and beyond' retail experience and many of our retail and hospitality businesses focus on this to create a unique offering.''

What is coming through Port of Tauranga undeclared?

From 2009 to June 30 2018 there were 102,2777 items including:
* Clothing accessories - lanyards, clothing labels and clothing tags
* Clothing - underwear, socks and shorts
* toys - balls, colouring books, playing cards and soft toys
* Household items - bowls, plates, cups, lamps, bottles, scales, chairs, key rings, money boxes and pens
* Plus 69,060 tobacco, cigarettes and cigars

- New Zealand Customs