Comptroller's Overview

The New Zealand Customs Service protects and promotes New Zealand through world class border management. The 2016/17 financial year was a challenging but productive one for Customs. We responded to increased demand on our resources, including record trade and travel volumes, while continuing to improve our service delivery and effectiveness.

Christine Stevenson

As an organisation, we are evolving and transforming to meet these challenges by improving and modernising the way we work at the border, and improving our intelligence and profiling capability.

In 2016/17 we completed the Joint Border Management System (JBMS) programme. This includes the Trade Single Window, which allows clients to meet the information requirements of both Customs and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) through a single electronic channel, eliminating duplication and reducing compliance costs for traders. JBMS also delivered sophisticated risk and intelligence tools that enable improved risk profiling, modelling, and targeting, and that are used by the new Joint Border Analytics team (involving Customs, MPI, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment).

After consultation with business stakeholders and the public, a new Customs and Excise Bill was introduced to the House in November 2016. The legislation reflects current business practices and supply chains, and will enable Customs to respond more flexibly to changes in technology and business practices. This will benefit industry by reducing compliance costs. The Bill was considered by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, and reported back to the House in May 2017. At the time of writing this report, the Bill was awaiting its second reading.

The Joint Electronic Verification System (JEVS) developed in partnership with China Customs went live in December 2016, accelerating clearance of New Zealand exports by electronically providing relevant information to China. The JEVS won the Excellence in Regulatory Systems Award at the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand’s 2017 Public Sector Excellence Awards.

We developed and introduced our Intelligent Enforcement strategy in 2016/17, which guides how Customs approaches the risks and threats we face. It is based on four key principles: prevention; being intelligence-led; efficient prioritisation; and effective partnerships.

In line with the strategy, over the last year we increased our ability to identify risk, detect and deter illicit and non-compliant activity, and carry out appropriate enforcement. A primary focus is the seizure of illicit drugs at the border, particularly methamphetamine. July 2016 saw our largest-ever seizure of methamphetamine – 176 kg concealed in the doors of shipping containers sent from China.

We continue to increase our focus on targeting risk at the source offshore. We have strengthened our relationships with overseas enforcement partners and agencies – the exchange of information and intelligence enables more targeted risk management, and joint investigative and operational activities. As part of this, we placed more staff overseas, which enables us to have greater impact on illegal drug supply chains at the source.

In support of the growth of New Zealand’s exports, we signed Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and with the General Administration of China Customs. Through MRAs, countries recognises each other’s supply chain security programme, providing approved exporters with a market advantage through swifter processing with fewer border checks, and priority in trade recovery situations.

People are fundamental to what we do and Customs continues to seek to be a great place to work where our people have a sense of belonging. We have worked hard to ensure we have the capability and commitment needed to meet our challenges now and into the future. Our Operations Transformation Programme gave us an improved people structure and deployment model for our Operations workforce in 2016/17, delivering operational efficiencies and greater flexibility so that we are able to respond to and manage growing service demands and border risks. It also benefits staff through offering additional career opportunities.

I commend the response and resilience of staff following the Kaikoura earthquake, particularly those who have since been working out of alternative locations due to the Wellington Customhouse undergoing remediation since the earthquake.

I wish to acknowledge the strong and effective leadership of Carolyn Tremain, who led the organisation over the time the many achievements reflected in this report were made.

I began as Acting Comptroller of Customs in July 2017 and I have been amazed at the breadth and complexity of what we do. I am also deeply impressed by the professionalism, integrity, and commitment of our people, who are critical to the success of the intelligence-led, risk-based, and customer-focused organisation that Customs is. I look forward to working with the team as we continue to provide New Zealanders with smart, efficient border services.


Christine Stevenson
Acting Comptroller of Customs