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Customs staff recognised for outstanding public service

01.47pm 20 December 2022 | News

This week five Customs staff were among 41 New Zealanders recognised with the Public Service Commissioner's Commendation for Excellence.

The Deputy Prime Minister presented these awards at the Banquet Hall at Parliament. 

“The recipients’ contribution to serving New Zealanders is absolutely exceptional and I want to say a big thank you to each of you for your leadership of your people. These award recipients are a credit to you and your organisations and the service you all do for New Zealand and New Zealanders each and every day," says Peter Hughes, Public Service Commissioner, Head of Service.

The Customs recipients were:

Megan Harvey, Seconded to Manager, Maritime

Megan is a genuine and inclusive leader who puts the needs of others at the center of everything she does. Her work at the Maritime border during COVID-19 demonstrated her resilience, agility, and commitment to keeping Customs officers and the New Zealand public safe. She was responsible for real-time complex responses at the border on a scale never seen before, to allow the safe arrival of vessels, their crew and cargo. Megan took on these challenges and worked collaboratively across the system to achieve the best outcomes possible. Megan’s extraordinary dedication to protecting others makes her a worthy recipient of this commendation.

"I am extremely honoured and humbled to have received this award, however I must acknowledge the collective efforts of a very large group of people that have all worked so very hard" says Megan.

"The last 2 years have been so complex and challenging but very rewarding, and I take a huge amount of pride in what has been achieved at the maritime border at all levels.  I am also so proud of what we have achieved as an organisation - our external partners and stakeholders hold Customs in such very high regard, and that is a testament to the continuous efforts of all."

"My family have been an extremely important part of my career with Customs, and the support they give me to do what I do is incredibly important to me, and a big part of everything I achieve.  This award, in my eyes, recognises not only me, but my family, and my wider team."

Denise Hing, Group Manager, Strategic Business Development, seconded to Group Manager, COVID-19 Response

Denise has an unwavering desire to achieve better outcomes for New Zealanders by connecting agencies across the sector. She always keeps people at the heart of everything she does. Denise’s work on the design and implementation of the ‘Reconnecting New Zealanders’ initiative was instrumental to enabling the New Zealand borders to reopen safely, all the while keeping people protected from COVID-19. She is able to calmly and purposefully navigate even the most ambiguous and challenging of working environments. Denise manages stakeholder connections with empathy and the highest level of commitment. She is a deserving recipient of this commendation. 

"I feel very privileged! It was a proud moment to see five of us from Customs recognised on the day, and a real honour to share the moment with Kim, Megan, Paula and Rachael. We heard lots of wonderful stories about commitment and spirit of service right across the public service. There are so many others in Customs, and in other agencies we work with, who are truly just as deserving so I hope our recognition can, in some small way, also be seen to reflect the enormity of their contributions too," says Denise.

Rachael Mason, Manager, Health, Safety and Wellbeing

Rachael truly keeps people’s safety and wellbeing at the heart of everything she does. She has been a strong pillar of support to all Customs Service staff, ensuring they stay connected throughout the pandemic. During COVID-19, Rachael was instrumental in the design of policies and procedures for the use of Personal Protective Equipment and protocols. She also established a staff wellbeing measurement and triage system for managers to best support their people. Rachael is commended for her agility, commitment, and passion for serving others. She is a fitting recipient of this commendation.

"Winning this Award brings immense pride in being part of the Customs response to the pandemic. Hearing my own colleagues and other agency colleagues' citations brought home the reality of being part of the spirit of service to others," says Rachael.

"It is a privilege to be shared with my team without whom the care and response would not have been possible. I did reflect deeply on Peter Hughes’ comment that everyone awarded for the COVID-19 response had literally saved thousands of lives in their respective teams and work areas. To be in the position of contributing meaningfully to that through working together with all of the Customs whanau and other agencies, is simply the best place to be."

Kim Rossiter, Product Owner NZTD. Formerly Acting Chief Customs Officer, Passenger Experience and Customs Technical Specialist

Kim has a strong desire to achieve the best possible outcomes for both her colleagues at the New Zealand Customs Service and for the New Zealand public. Her positive and can-do attitude have helped to navigate complex situations in an ever-changing working environment, particularly during the initial COVID-19 response. During the pandemic, Kim provided critical support at Auckland International Airport, working collaboratively to ensure the protection of passengers and border staff. She constantly demonstrates flexibility and creativity in her work, keeping safety at the forefront and treating everyone with the utmost respect and dignity. Kim is a fitting recipient of this commendation.

Kim says, "It was as a humbling surprise to be nominated for this award and an honour to be in the company of so many amazing people and hearing about their journeys within the Public Sector."

"Due to border settings and IPC requirements, I was constantly changing processes at the airport. We were lucky to have a professional and flexible team that worked tirelessly to get people safely across the border and I thank them for that. I am proud to be able to say that no Customs team member contracted COVID-19 whilst at work at the airport."

Paula Strickson, Acting Manager, COVID-19 Policy

Paula is a leader you can depend on. She truly dedicated herself to the Customs response to COVID-19 and was instrumental in its success. She made an outstanding contribution to ensuring that Air Border Order policy settings would lead to the best possible outcomes for keeping New Zealand safe. To ensure the success of this work, she committed huge amounts of her time to this. Paula is a key expert in critical areas and contributed largely to wider policies led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Ministry of Health. Paula’s spirit of service makes her a deserving recipient of this commendation.​​​​​​​

“I was very honoured to be nominated and it was humbling just listening to the wide range of contributions made by other recipients. Upon reflection, there was an enormous Customs’ team effort and I was always working alongside other Customs colleagues, whether they were from operations, legal, or the wider policy team,” says Paula.

From left: Megan Harvey, Paula Strickson, Denise Hing,
Kim Rossiter and Rachael Mason
Deputy Price Minister Hon Grant Robertson, Denise Hing
and Public Service Commissioner,
Head of Service, Peter Hughes
Deputy Prime Minister Hon Grant Robertson, Kim Rossiter
and Public Service Commissioner,
Head of Service, Peter Hughes
Deputy Prime Minister Hon Grant Robertson, Megan Harvey
and Public Service Commissioner,
Head of Service, Peter Hughes
Paula Strickson receiving award Rachael Mason receiving award
Deputy Prime Minister Hon Grant Robertson, Paula Strickson
and Public Service Commissioner,
Head of Service, Peter Hughes
Deputy Prime Minister Hon Grant Robertson, Rachael Mason
and Public Service Commissioner,
Head of Service, Peter Hughes