Fijian 'miracle' water importers risk fines or prosecution
"Miracle" water from a Fijian village that is proclaimed as the Lourdes of the Pacific has been banned from being brought into New Zealand unless treated.
Thousands of people have descended on the village of Natadradave in Dawasamu, Tailevu, after hearing stories that the waters of a natural spring heal everything from conjunctivitis to blindness.
Since November "close to 500" people had been intercepted at airports and other borders trying to bring the water in, and made a lot of work for border control staff said Craig Hughes from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
He said the water posed a biosecurity risk to New Zealand and anyone bringing it in would be slapped with a fine of $400 or prosecution if they did not declare it.
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Alternatively if they did declare it and wanted to keep it, they would have to pay $60 for heat treatment.
"Our concern isn't whether the healing properties are real or not, but whether it contains waterborne diseases that could harm New Zealand's freshwater aquaculture and natural environment," said Hughes, MPI's Manager North Passenger and Mail.
Hughes said passengers tried to bring untreated water in from various parts of the world.
"We have seen live mosquito larvae in some bottles. It highlights the risk of water coming into the country."
Heat treatment was an option but was not a quick process. The water had to be sent to a proper treatment facility.
MPI is currently running a campaign to inform travellers from Fiji about New Zealand's biosecurity rules regarding the water. The campaign includes notices at Nadi Airport.
The "miracle" water has transformed the sleepy village of Natadradave, two hours' drive from Suva. In just two months at the end of last year, about 62,000 people visited the village.
Although the jury is out on the efficacy of the water, its popularity has resulted in a better road into the village, as well as a big market for local produce.