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Customs review raises questions about border protection

Serious questions have emerged about the capacity of the Defence Force to protect New Zealand’s borders, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says.

“Today’s financial review of Customs reveals it can’t do the job of providing surveillance of what it defines as the highest risk areas.

“Customs were asked why they failed to meet their own performance standards – just 57 per cent – in providing surveillance in these areas. 

“Deputy Comptroller Bill Perry said in explanation ‘we have no assets to go there’.

“What that reflects is the Defence Force’s inability to put its four modern inshore patrol vessels to sea. 

“Year after year financial reviews have shown the New Zealand Navy has not been able to make use of more than one or two of its ships because of a shortage of skilled personnel

“Today we heard that the areas defined by Customs as highest risk because of people and drug smuggling and bio-security risks are not being adequately patrolled as a result.

“Despite having the ships to do the job, National’s failure after seven years to address the shortage of skilled navy personnel means that New Zealand is not patrolling the areas of greatest concern. That puts New Zealand at risk,” Phil Goff says.