Fine for seeds in trousers

18 March 2021

A Rotorua bus driver was fined $4,500 last month for attempting to smuggle seeds through Auckland Airport.

The fine follows the detection of five packets of vegetable seeds in a zip pocket of a pair of trousers in the man’s baggage in September 2019. He had falsely declared he wasn’t carrying any plant products on his arrival card and later admitted hiding the seeds so they wouldn’t be detected by quarantine officers.

His lawyer tried to argue the biosecurity risk was very low, given the seeds were commercially packaged. However, in sentencing the judge stated he didn’t have the skill to determine if the seeds would harm New Zealand and that a significant fine was needed.

Bringing in or buying seeds online for import into New Zealand is a huge risk as unfortunately, many seeds aren’t what they say they are and more importantly do not meet New Zealand’s strict biosecurity rules and could risk introducing a plant disease.

Importing seeds is best left to reputable commercial operators who know what they are doing and are aware of what they must always do to meet the rules (including an import permit; phytosanitary certificate; and post entry quarantine for example).

Anyone can be prosecuted for bringing, or attempting to bring, unwanted plant species or pests and diseases into New Zealand. Biosecurity New Zealand enforce all requirements. Any report of kiwifruit plants grown from unapproved seed imports will be investigated. Please contact the pest and disease hotline on 0800 80 99 66 if you are aware of any unapproved kiwifruit seed imports.