New Zealand Customs Service

New Zealand Customs Service
Te Mana Arai O Aotearoa (Māori)

Logo of the New Zealand Customs Service

Flag of the New Zealand Customs Service
Agency overview
Formed 1840
Employees Approx 1,300
Annual budget Vote Customs
Total budget for 2016/17
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
National agency New Zealand
Governing body New Zealand Government
Constituting instrument Customs and Excise Act 1996
General nature
Specialist jurisdiction Customs.
Operational structure
Headquarters The Customshouse,
1 Hinemoa St, Harbour Quays,
Minister responsible Hon Nicky Wagner,
Minister of Customs
Agency executive Carolyn Tremain,
Comptroller of Customs and Chief Executive
Stations 23

The Customs Service (In Māori, Te Mana Arai o Aotearoa) is a state sector organisation of New Zealand whose role is to provide border control and protect the community from potential risks arising from international trade and travel, as well as collecting duties and taxes on imports to the country.

New Zealand's Minister of Customs is Nicky Wagner MP.


The New Zealand Customs service is the oldest government department in New Zealand.[2] Formed on 5 January 1840, it pre-dates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by one month.[3] Its early establishment was necessary to collect revenue for the fledgling government, and over the years duties, tariffs and taxes collected by Customs have remained a major source of revenue for the country, although customs has also been used to impose various control over the movement of people and the distribution of particular products, in particular alcohol and tobacco.

In 1996, the New Zealand Customs Department was renamed the New Zealand Customs Service.[2]

In recent years the Customs Service has modernized itself in order to keep pace with new technologies and the ever increasing volumes of international passengers and trade, while balancing its law enforcement and compliance obligations. Staffing levels sit between 1300 - 1500 nationally, with its head office located in Wellington. Staff are based at various ports and locations around New Zealand and are a mixture of frontline uniformed staff such as those seen at the airports and sea ports, as well as plainclothes staff in varying other roles.


A container x-ray inspection unit at Ports of Auckland.

The Customs Service is a law enforcement agency in its own right, and is responsible for intercepting contraband, and checks international travelers and their baggage, as well as cargo and mail, for banned or prohibited items. Contrary to popular belief, it is not responsible for biosecurity items such as food and other agricultural items declared at ports of entry - this is the responsibility for the Ministry for Primary Industries. Customs is also responsible for assessing and collecting Customs duties, excise taxes and Goods and Services Tax on imports and protecting New Zealand businesses against illegal trade. It is second only to the Inland Revenue Department for the amount of revenue it collects for the New Zealand Government. It exercises controls over restricted and prohibited imports and exports, including objectionable material (such as child sex abuse images), drugs, firearms and hazardous waste and also collects import and export data.

New Zealand Customs is responsible for documentation of all imports and exports (in 2006/7 this was 47 million imports and 33 million exports). Since 1999 all documentation to New Zealand Customs has been electronic.[4]

The New Zealand Customs Service works closely with New Zealand's other border agencies, the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Aviation Security Service (AvSec) and Immigration New Zealand. It also works very closely with the New Zealand Police and the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand in joint operations involving the importation of drugs.

New Zealand Customs established the Trade Single Window in 2013 to provide a single place to lodge import and export documents with all of New Zealand Government.[2][5]

Whilst an unarmed agency, some Customs officers are authorized to carry handcuffs and make arrests in relation to offences relating to the importation of drugs and other prohibited goods.

New Zealand Customs is also the administrative body of the New Zealand Government responsible for the domestic collection and control of excise tax on tobacco and alcohol.


New Zealand Customs officers continue to make significant seizures of pseudoephedrine, a precursor for Methamphetamine. Open source media and Customs reporting to government suggests that pseudoephedrine makes up the large majority of Customs seziures. These seizures have resulted in multiple arrests and successful prosecutions by Customs and Police officers.

In October 2010, then Comptroller of Customs Martyn Dunne advised a New Zealand Parliament committee that 796 kg of Pseudoephedrine, with a value of $90 million, had been seized in the nine months to 30 September, compared with 733 kg for the whole year in 2009. It was later revealed that Customs seized over a tonne of pseudoephedrine in 2010.

Office locations

Customs officers are based at the main cities in New Zealand, as well as a number of smaller ports. Its headquarters is based in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. Customs also has liaison officers based at the following overseas locations: Canberra, Bangkok, Beijing, Brussels and Washington D.C.

Recruitment and training


Customs conducts national intakes, with the number of intakes per year varying dependent on the needs of the Service. Typically each intake will consist of 20 - 30 recruits who are referred to as 'cohorts'. Recruiting usually begins with Customs advertising nationwide, calling for applications for persons who meet requisite criteria. Applications are then reviewed and accepted or rejected. The majority of applicants are culled at this initial stage. Persons who pass the initial application process are then invited to 'open days' at central locations (usually Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) during which they are given insights into the various roles Customs undertakes as well as being placed into groups and are assessed during group problem solving scenarios, where individuals are observed by assessors and are judged on various factors such as interaction, initiative and leadership traits. Those who are deemed suitable must then pass an interview, police checks and medical test before being offered a space on the next intake.


Training consists of a combination of residential and on the job training. Initial training usually consists of a five-week residential course at the Royal New Zealand Police College, or other facilities if space is unavailable at the police college. Training courses have previously been held at the Waiouru Army Camp when the police college has been unavailable. The residential course covers Customs history, legislation, presentations from various representatives of various work areas within Customs, self-defense training and physical training. Tests are also conducted throughout the course. Following the residential course, cohorts spend a further five months undertaking on the job training in areas such as airports and cargo inspections, to give them a basic understanding of the main work areas performed by Customs officers. Following the end of this training, cohorts attend a formal graduation ceremony during which they receive their Customs officer's epaulettes.


  1. "Total Appropriations for Each Vote". 2016 Budget. The Treasury.
  2. 1 2 3 "Our History". New Zealand Customs Service. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  3. "The Treaty in brief". New Zealand History. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  4. "Customs e-nabling New Zealand's International Trade". B2BE.
  5. "Joint Border Management System go-live". New Zealand Customs. 1 August 2013.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Customs services of New Zealand.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 6/10/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.