Contraband - NZ Customs


Customs today – 175 years in the making

Customs today - 175 years in the making

Over the course of 2015 Customs reflected on 175 years of service to the Crown and to New Zealand, taking the time to mark this momentous occasion. 

Early in the year Customs marked its 175th birthday with Customs officers past and present at ports around the country (and overseas). Celebrating with birthday cake at Customhouses, officers had a chance to reflect on the changing operational environment and the nature of Customs’ work over the ages.

Customs Minister, Nicky Wagner paid tribute to the service of Customs staff over the past 175 years when she visited the Old Customhouse in Russell, New Zealand’s first Customhouse, with some of our staff.

Customs’ enduring significance is paved out in the Customs Streets, Quays and Houses across New Zealand. While no longer used as shipping-trade posts, Customhouses remain a pillar of the community and of New Zealand’s investment in her border management. The state-of-the-art facilities in Auckland, Christchurch, and most recently, Wellington, reflect the current nature of border protection and protection, centred on automation, intelligence and international connection. 

People are at the heart of Customs and Customs took the opportunity to (re)connect with a number of retired and former Customs officers. Drawing on a half-century of operational knowledge, Customs produced a commemorative magazine and an audio-visual oral history. These publications act as an archive of Customs achievements, tracking the development of Customs systems against the changing national and global landscape.
This was also an opportunity to capture some insight into the day-to-day of life at Customs – the beating heart of the organisation.

These productions were showcased at a stakeholder function, hosted by the Hon Nicky Wagner at Parliament in Wellington in November. The Grand Hall was suitable accommodation for the auspicious occasion, outfitted with Customs memorabilia and officers, past and present. Customs’ stakeholders from partner agencies and industries, from across New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific came together to reflect on another year of working together, and our 175th year of managing New Zealand’s borders.

Individual commemorative passports admitted guests into the event where they were welcomed by Customs officers and Maori Network. Guests enjoyed a performance of the Customs haka from our kapa haka group. This haka was composed by ex-Customs Officer Soloman Ngata who is a grandnephew of the late Sir Apirana Ngata, a former parliamentary member and the twenty-second Minister of Maori Affairs (1928 to 1934).

Officers and stakeholders alike appreciated the opportunity to reflect on a busy year -advances in inter-agency cooperation and collaboration, the successes of JBMS, SmartGate initiatives, and a global investment in trade agreements.  It is clear that Customs is at the fore of a changing operational tide.

Birthday parties and commemorative pins aside, 2015 was a significant year because it marked 175 years of New Zealanders actively investing in protecting their country – a job that has been completed successfully, whether it be using searching individual cargo with rod, prods, and mirrors on poles, or mobile xray trucks.