Pacific travellers warned not to bring shells or coral into NZ

RNZ reports New Zealand's Department of Conservation is encouraging customs authorities around the region to continue raising awareness about export permits for cultural items.

Hundreds of items from the Pacific are seized at New Zealand borders each year under the country's Trade in Endangered Species Act.

National Compliance manager, Darryl Lew, was warning travellers from the Pacific not to bring in coral or shells which are by far the most commonly seized items from the region at the country's border.

He said the department supports the region in raising awareness of legislation and permits needed for exporting items.

"We would encourage the Pacific Island Management authority to continue their very good efforts in the islands to carry out their education of the Pacific Islanders and other locals and even visitors to the islands around what can and can't be taken," he said.

The warning comes after a Fijian woman was forced to surrender a family heirloom called a tabua to the Crown after she declared it at Auckland Airport last month.

The polished whale tooth is about 13 cm long and is a highly regarded cultural gift in Fiji - often passed down through generations.

It was formerly gifted to her daughter by the family's village and was confiscated under New Zealand's Trade in Endangered Species Act.

New Zealand is one of 183 countries who are party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES act.

The act covers over 34,000 species and monitors and regulates trade in endangered species through a system of permits and certificates.


Photo: Supplied/ Dali Jobson (The Tabua gifted to Dali Jobson’s daughter which was confiscated at Auckland Airport by Customs under the CITES Act).