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Glenn Coldham, president of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation of New Zealand (CBAFF), at the annual CBAFF conference in Queenstown in May

Biosecurity chief outlines plans to address processing delays

Roger Smith, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) chief operations officer and head of Biosecurity New Zealand, has acknowledged the challenges to freight forwarders from biosecurity processing delays and outlined measures to address this.

Addressing the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation of New Zealand (CBAFF) 2019 conference in Queenstown, Mr Smith said MPI recognises the industry’s frustrations, particularly throughout the 2018/19 brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) season. While the MPI website states clearing biosecurity documentation should take about 12 hours, the industry had reported the process was taking 10–14 days during this period.

Mr Smith said MPI is committed to bringing in further additional staff, improving its technology, queuing systems and targeting ability, and working more closely with its Australian counterparts. It is also overhauling its import health standards (IHS) to “design an IHS that will keep stink bugs out, but allow trade to move more freely”.

“You need to hold us to account. I know you will and I look forward to it,” he said. 

Improved services

Richard Bargh, New Zealand Customs group manager, revenue and assurance, also told the conference that Customs is embarking on several pieces of work aimed at improving services. 

These include establishing a centre of excellence for temporary import entries (TIEs), working with MPI on joint border analytics, and a pilot project to extend the Secure Export Scheme to air. 

Mr Bargh also signalled the end of public counters, such as those at Auckland and Christchurch airports, due to security concerns for staff. The current ‘drop-in’ service could be replaced with an appointments system. 

Call for action

Graeme Marshall, Biosecurity 2025 steering group member and chair of the biosecurity ministerial advisory committee, issued a call for action to industry in his presentation to the conference. The aim of Biosecurity 2025 is to get all New Zealanders involved in pest and disease management, but Mr Marshall said very few businesses in the sector are actively promoting its goals. 

“I challenge you: do you have a biosecurity champion in your business?” he asked. “Why, when you play such a huge part in the biosecurity system, are you not more involved? Industry needs to encourage proactive biosecurity initiatives across businesses and get conversations about biosecurity going in boardrooms.”

Straight-through processing

The theme of the conference was ‘Disruption’, with speakers covering topics from blockchain to technology to disaster recovery and the upcoming GST charges on low-value imported goods.

Richard White, CEO and founder of Sydney-based WiseTech Global, outlined a vision of straight-through digital processing for the near future. He said it is not Amazon and ecommerce which is the disruptor in the industry.

“It is logistics that is the disruptor, because it makes ecommerce possible,” said Mr White, outlining the multi-year multi-million investment his company is making in straight-through digital processing for its customers’ systems. 

“In a truly digitally-connected world, the beginning sees the end, and every point in the middle,” he said. “That is the future, and it is not a long future. Straight-through digital processing is what is going to happen. It is the future and it is the disruption.”

Attracting young talent

The conference attracted a record number of delegates, and New Zealander of the Year and mental health educator Mike King proved to be a very well-received opening keynote speaker.

The youth panel at the annual CBAFF conference in Queenstown in May

The final day of the conference, held during 16–17 May, had a strong focus on the challenges of attracting talented young people to the industry. A youth panel, including new CBAFF vice president Rachel Madden, 2017 CBAFF Young Achiever winner Phillip Burgess, 2019 winner Natarlia Harold and 2019 finalists Adela Bright and Henry Hawkins, shared their views on this – with a strong theme being the lack of industry visibility among young people, careers advisors and the public. 

Australian Federation of International Forwarders (AFIF) chief executive Brian Lovell talked about the steps AFIF has taken and the significant investment the Australian industry has made to address this issue through its sophisticated Make Your Move career education campaign. 

The Australian drive to attract school-leavers to the industry has so far cost AU$500,000. It uses social media, a dedicated website, micro-videos and strong engagement with hundreds of careers advisors and thousands of students to raise awareness about the industry and the job opportunities available.

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