New Zealand Customs Medal PresentationsPrime Minister
Speech notes for Helen Clark's address at the First Presentation Ceremony for the New Zealand Customs Medal. Banquet Hall, Parliament
This is a new medal, approved earlier this year by Her Majesty the Queen, to recognise long service and good conduct by Customs officers. Two of today’s recipients are the Service’s longest serving Officers – Brian Redfern and John Hopkins, at 52 and 50 years service respectively.
It is a credit to New Zealand Customs that the service has 150 employees who have been with the organisation for more than thirty years. This long service reflects the tremendous commitment which staff make to the organisation, and vice versa.
Now Customs, like the Armed Services, the Police, the Fire and Prison Services, can recognise this service through the award of an official medal. The Honours Secretariat within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has worked with Customs to make this possible. I am very pleased with the result.
I would like now to make some comments about the vital role New Zealand Customs performs on behalf of New Zealand.
Customs is one of New Zealand’s oldest government departments. Over the course of its proud 168-year history, its role has evolved from the initial focus on revenue collection to today’s far wider focus. Every day Customs officers work to secure our borders against the threat of illicit imports, and they help to facilitate the trade and travel which is so vital to our economy and lifestyle.
Customs works with our other border agencies and its counterpart Customs organisations around the world to counter threats to New Zealanders' health, security, and values. These threats include pandemics and illicit drugs, international terrorism, trans-national organised crime, and the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction and of pornography; as well as the threat of illegal removal of Maori taonga and other cultural heritage items from New Zealand.
Trade security, particularly since the September 11 attacks, has presented new challenges for Customs here in New Zealand and around the world. We have worked together with our global partners to secure vital supply chains.
New Zealand Customs led the way in signing a Mutual Recognition Agreement with its counterparts in the United States, and is in negotiation with Japan and Australia to establish similar arrangements there.
These agreements enable closer co-operation in border management with our major trading partners.
New Zealand Customs has been highly innovative in establishing the Secure Exports Scheme, giving low-risk status to the goods of trusted exporters who have met specific terms and conditions.
Included alongside the recently signed China Free Trade Agreement is a Customs Co-operative Agreement between New Zealand and China Customs which will enable greater co-operation in border management between us.
At home in New Zealand, Customs works with MAF, the Immigration Service, the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Food Safety Authority in the Border Sector Working Group.
It is consulting closely with industry and tourism stakeholders to ensure the best, most efficient services can be delivered at the border for the benefit of trade and travel.
New projects being driven by the Group include :
- the Trade Single Window, aiming to provide a harmonised administrative process for importers and exporters at the border; and
- the adoption of technology using e-passports to provide a streamlined automatic border processing service, making legitimate travel easier, especially between Australia and New Zealand.
New Zealand Customs is seeing considerable growth in all aspects of its work. Trade and travel volumes have grown rapidly in the last few years, and Customs must service the increased flows.
Seizures of illicit goods are increasing too. Customs is engaged in the ongoing battle against drugs, where the stakes are high and the health of our community is at risk. I applaud the work that our Customs officers are doing at the frontline. No-one should underestimate the magnitude of the challenges they face.
As well there is the challenge of detecting counterfeit goods across a wide range of products from clothes to machinery, medicines, and car parts.
Customs has destroyed over 1.25 million counterfeit items from over 4116 investigations and interceptions since 1995.
The need for a co-ordinated strategy at the border is thus greater than ever before. I congratulate New Zealand Customs and other agencies for the progress they are making on that. Their work, and the work Customs is doing with its global counterparts, contributes to the economy and to our security and safety.
Customs’ priorities for the years ahead are clear :
- the protection of our people
- facilitation of legitimate trade and travel
- forging strong relationships with national and international stakeholders, and
- collecting revenue – the oldest of all Customs’ functions!
In these tasks, the individual officers being recognised today play a vital part. These officers and their colleagues in New Zealand and abroad are the people whose day-to-day efforts make it possible for our country to have a world class Customs service.
Today’s recipients are representative of the many eligible Customs officers to whom medals will be awarded in the coming months.
I congratulate each and every one of you, and all of those who are and will become eligible for this honour.
Thank you for the important work you do for New Zealand and for your commitment to the New Zealand Customs Service.