The Board of Airline Representatives NZ (Inc)Customs
I appreciate the invitation from your Executive Director, John Webb to talk to you tonight.
I know that you have had a busy General Meeting and John has suggested that I talk for a short time and then give you the opportunity to ask me some questions.
For those of you who do not know the Comptroller of Customs, Graeme Ludlow, there he is, and standing alongside him is his Deputy - Ron McGrath.
No doubt their invitation has been arranged by Kevin who is due once again for a Performance Review and wants them to hear nice things.
Well, I must say that I have been hearing nice things about the Airport and the servicing of it by Customs.
There are always complaints, but for those of us who travel frequently we know that the service we get in New Zealand is equal to anything in the world.
I want to emphasise tonight that being as good as anyone in the world is not sufficient. We must be the best.
To ensure this happens I asked Graeme Ludlow to prepare a strategic statement on Passenger Processing in time for me to be able to sign it in front of you this evening.
I want to talk briefly about this agreement before formally signing it.
I expect my Department to meet world best practice by the year 2000.
To ensure this happens I have included in the agreement with Graeme a new requirement for Customs to move progressively to incorporate peer review such as feedback from various Airlines and selected Airport companies into its evaluation process.
In this way, identified world best practitioners will assess the effectiveness of New Zealand Customs programmes and their delivery.
The agreement commits the Department to provide community security by displaying enterprise and innovation with border management.
I am determined that my Department continues to work with you to maintain a safe and secure border with minimum intervention to legitimate trade and travel.
The Government has provided funding to modernise Customs passenger processing by July 1997. I expect these solutions to be two-fold.
Technologically by the encouragement of overseas administrations and the travel industry to provide Advanced Passenger Information, the wider use of Machine Readable Passports, and the use of Biometrics and the enhancement of our Information Technology systems including a single Customs database for border passenger management.
Administratively by reductions in the levels of routine documentation checks, streamlining passenger categories, more effective management of risk, particularly in respect of New Zealand passport holders and improving the effectiveness of Secondary Processing procedures.
Earlier this week, I met with my Australian counterpart, the Honourable Geoff Prosser and spoke about the need for closer co-operation between our respective departments in a number of areas, not the least being Passenger Facilitation.
As a result of these talks we agreed to direct our Chief Executives to commence work imminently on further alignment of systems for trans-Tasman travel, including simplified passenger declarations.
Personally, I would see no good reason for us to require passengers to supply arrival and departure information more than once to meet the requirement of both border agencies.
I might add that I have the same aspiration in respect of the importing and exporting of goods.
Because Customs performs an agency and a management function at the border in respect of policies owned by other departments, we will need to take some other people with us as we make progress in these areas.
I expect my Department to work closely with BARNZ in accomplishing these goals within the time-frame of 1 July.
Much has been accomplished over recent years
· Tourism has grown quickly since 1992 with annual growth rates in international visitor arrivals of:
· While growth slowed to 6.5% last year, the figures just released for the period June 1996 over June 1995 show an increase of 19%.
· What this has meant for Auckland International Airport over the last four years is an increase of 25.7% from 1.48 million visitor arrivals in 1992, to 1.86 million for the year ended 1995-1996.
· Of course the real impact of these numbers is realised when you look at peak time arrivals.
· In February 1990 at peak times at Auckland International Airport, there were 800 visitor arrivals in peak hours - in February this year that figure doubled to 1600, with a projected figure for February 1997 at peak times of over 2000 visitors per peak hour.
So, for Customs the task gets greater, and available funds do not. It is against this scenario that I must balance the various reviews into the funding and pricing of passenger clearance.
A funding regime needs to be put in place that will
· address the airlines concerns over inequities with the current charging outside of gazetted hours,
· address the different charges applying to international flights from domestic airports,
· ensure that we both achieve cost reductions in the delivery of Customs services, and pass on the benefit of those efficiencies to our customers.
The revised charging regimes must provide airlines and airport companies with certainty about the environment they are operating in and also provide discipline on the providers of the service.
Over a year ago now I commissioned an independent review of the current charges.
This review was chaired by Kevin Donovan and he and his Committee consisting of Tony Gollin, John Webb and Vince Dennehy gave me their final report a few weeks ago.
I believe that their report represents considerable progress.
However, rather than moving in isolation to make the changes recommended, I am now attempting to achieve some uniformity of approach across Government departments.
Given the large growth in volumes of traffic, we have experienced and will continue to experience, we must find a way forward which encourages a spirit of partnership between all of the players - government agencies, airport corporations, airlines and other private sector players alike.
You dont need to be a rocket scientist to understand that future growth can only be resourced either by access to someones chequebook - either yours or that of the Minister of Finance - or by making efficiency gains.
I know that many of you hold the view that between the various Government agencies involved, there are considerable opportunities for efficiency gains.
I strongly support that view.
As we jointly meet the challenge of managing and resourcing a rapidly growing level of traffic, I believe that you are entitled to ask for significant gains to be achieved by central government.
Customs, MAF, MOF, Aviation Security and Immigration, all report to Ministers.
Central Government is currently also a significant shareholder in the major airport corporations.
It is only fair that you should expect us to meet you half way, as we deal with the challenge of growth, by delivering the efficiency gains which are there to be claimed.
It is my personal view that in the term of the next government, it will be inevitable that we revisit the concept of a single border agency - previously a victim of inter-agency turf battles.
The overpowering impression which I have received over five years as Minister of Customs is of the vital importance of the partnerships which exist at the border.
If all of the players decide to cooperate, there is enormous scope for improvement.
If one or two stand aside from that partnership, the scope for improvement of all of the others is seriously proscribed.
And so tonight it is appropriate that in thanking you for the considerable efforts you have made over the past few years to build a strong partnership with the Customs Department, I should also express my commitment to seeing central government in its widest sense, play its large and essential part in taking this partnership to the next stage.