Illicit egg smuggling under scrutiny

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 12:00 29/11/2012

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The Primary Industries Ministry yesterday confirmed it is investigating the possible illegal importation of exotic eggs into Marlborough.

Media spokesman William Minchin would not give any details on the Marlborough imports because of the investigation.

He would not say what species of bird the eggs were, how they arrived in the country, who was being investigated, whether properties had been raided or when the investigation began.

The decision on whether to prosecute could take months and he had known investigations to take more than a year, Mr Minchin said.

"New Zealand has strict biosecurity and food safety rules around egg importations," Mr Minchin said.

Imports were also restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, overseen by the Conservation Department.

The ministry announced on Tuesday it had prosecuted a passenger on a flight into Auckland last week for importing two ostrich eggs in their luggage.

The South African passport holder was fined $400. It is understood this case is not related to the investigation in Marlborough.

Ministry operational support co-ordinator Steve Gay said a ministry quarantine inspector at Auckland Airport found the undeclared ostrich eggs. There was a chance they could be carrying avian diseases and that they could have been used for breeding.

"It beggars belief that the passenger could possibly forget to declare something so obvious in size and so risky for our primary sector and environment," Mr Gay said.

"Air passengers pass more than 30 signs asking them to declare or dispose risk items before they even speak to a quarantine inspector."

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- The Marlborough Express

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