The well-wrapped live tree fared well on its journey from Britain, say border officials

Surprised border officials have intercepted a small live Christmas tree, complete with pot of damp soil, sent by post from Britain.

Biosecurity staff spotted the 30cm potted plant as the well-wrapped package passed through the x-ray machine at the International Mail Centre in Auckland this week.

The little tree was among the stranger seasonal seizures this year - biosecurity staff are more accustomed to intercepting Christmas hamper goods as the festive season nears.

Ministry for Primary Industries northern passenger and mail manager Craig Hughes said he sometimes felt like the Christmas grinch.


But border staff had an important job to do, and usually tried to get in touch with the sender or recipient, offering to return or treat the goods if possible.

Mail volumes rose dramatically every Christmas and there were some common seasonal finds.

"Often it's small goods like meats, pate and salami, also fir pine trees - clippings, but not the whole tree.

"Of course all of that is not allowed in the country because it's high risk."

Mr Hughes said the tree had fared well in its journey from the UK.

But it might harbour fungi or insects in its soil, roots or foliage, he said. The biggest concern was a fir tree-killing fungus rampant in Britain and North America.

The tree's sender has been offered the choices of having it destroyed or returned to Britain.