Crackdown on crackers

Last updated 23:25 12/10/2008

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A crackdown on Christmas crackers is looming, as the yuletide party piece is classified by authorities as fireworks.

Customs has issued a circular reminding importers that under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, Christmas crackers are covered by the definition of, and controls on, the importation of fireworks.

"As such Christmas crackers require a completed Certificate to Import Explosives from Erma (the Environmental Risk Management Authority) New Zealand before they may be imported into New Zealand," the circular states.

"It is estimated that only approximately 60 percent of Christmas crackers being imported into the country obtain the required certificates."

Mike Jones, owner of Christchurch's Christmas Jones store, said the explosive stick in Christmas crackers was only just making a come-back to shop shelves after a heavy crack-down following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

"We couldn't get them. We ran out of them for about two years," Jones said.

"Last year was the first year we got them back."

He said the crackers were harmless.

"They're only really small, they're only tiny and they sell for nothing. I think they'd have more fun getting the gas out of lighters," Jones said.

Noeline Sampson, co-owner of the Santa's Choice Christmas shop said she understood the rules.

"I can understand what they're getting at, that someone would get into the cracker bit and probably use the gunpowder or something," Sampson said.

"They (customs) deal with people that are always crooks and are always getting into trouble and trying to find a new way of getting other people into trouble by doing things like tampering with them."

An Invercargill woman last year found a dead mouse in her Christmas cracker.

"If you've got cheap crackers, the kids are going to be able to buy them," Sampson said.

She sold boxes of crackers for up to $30. "They (children) are not going to buy those."

A spokeswoman for Erma said no specific incident had sparked the reminder to Customs which had been passed on to importers.

"Christmas crackers are classified as fireworks, not just in New Zealand, but internationally," she said.

The regulations required an importer of Christmas crackers to obtain a test certificate.

"As these requirements are not at all new, we wouldn't expect any impact on the quantity of crackers imported this year, the size of the snap when they're pulled, or the quality of the jokes they contain."

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- The Press

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