Anything to declare? How about, 73 tuatara.
A plane load of rare lizard-like reptiles has been successfully delivered on an Air New Zealand charter flight from the bottom of Southland to wild habitats in Marlborough Sounds.
The tuatara, which had been based at Invercargill's breeding programme out of the Southland Museum & Art Gallery, were checked onto a dedicated flight NZ8952 to Nelson on Wednesday.
As Kaitiaki of this unique species taonga the Ngāti Koata iwi helped arrange the released of the animals into reserves. The offspring of specimen originally from the Sounds, the animals from the breeding programme are finally back home.
The flight was part of a partnership between the national airline and DOC that has seen 4000 animals of different species transported to date.
Moving so many of the animals carefully and with minimum harm was a complicated that required input from specialists from DOC but also Victoria University and Wellington Zoo.
Ngāti Koata Cultural Manager Louisa Paul thanked Ngāi Tahu iwi and others involved in organising the move:
"Mā pango mā whero ka oti te mahi - through cooperation the work can be completed."
Evlyn Cook kaumatua of Ngāi Tahu who travelled with the special consignment said she was sad to see them go but pleased that they would return to the ancestral lands. "Just as we have shared out takahē, they have shared their tuatara," she said.
Lindsay Hazley who has overseen the breeding of the reptiles for Invercargill City Council saw the flight as a big moment for the conservation programme.
"In recent years, new partnerships with Ngāti Koata and Ngāi Tahu have been forged, which has meant that we are able to return these very special creatures to their ancestral home," she said.
However this was not the final chapter for tuatara in Invercargill.
17 remain in the care of the Museum, including Millie, Lucy and Henry – a hundred-year-old reptile and local celebrity.
Fears that the city might cease to be a home to the "living dinosaurs" arose after the breeding programme was suspended and the main building was condemned over earthquake risks in 2017.
A spokesperson for Invercargill City Council said while the building is still off limits, public can still see the remaining tuatara observation windows in Queens Park.
Invercargill can expect a report on future options for Southland Museum and Art Gallery by the end of the year.