Beware, Mr Big – we are being encouraged to blow the whistle on anything suspicious under new Customs initiative

Our Beehive bulletin

Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri officially launched Customs’ new outreach campaign, Border Protect, in Opua at the weekend.

This campaign is aimed at encouraging Kiwis to blow the whistle, if they suspect something untoward is going on – they should report potential suspicious activities to Customs “and help protect New Zealand”.

The only other news on the Beehive website told us the PM has unveiled a new Memorial to acknowledge the contribution of Pacific nations to military conflicts and the bonds shared with New Zealand.

The Pacific Islands Memorial Te Reo Hotunui o te Moana nui a Kiwa recognises the close relationship between Aotearoa New Zealand and other Pacific nations, acknowledging the region’s contribution during times of conflict and the shared history that strengthens our bond today, Jacinda Ardern said.

The Memorial is an addition to the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

Whaitiri went further north to speak to community and industry representatives at the Bay of Islands Marina, where she emphasised that Northland remains a key focus for Customs because it has one of the most accessible parts of New Zealand’s coastline and Opua is the main hub for international yacht arrivals and departures.

Opua was a splendid choice for the  launch.   

We found a reference to the port on Noonsite.com, a website which describes itself as “The Ultimate Cruisers Planning Tool”.

It says:

Opua is known as the “Gateway to New Zealand” and is located 17 miles from Cape Brett Lighthouse. This beautiful area is very popular with cruising boats and is the primary arrival port for boats that have crossed the Pacific.

Officials are reported to be efficient, polite and helpful and there is a designated floating Quarantine wharf which makes clearance here very straightforward.

A search of the web will show fleeting mentions of Opua with regard to the Rainbow Warrior bombing story in 1985.

The small port features more prominelty in the Mr Asia story

For close to a decade, the biggest, most ruthless crime syndicate New Zealand has ever seen ran the drug trade across Australia and Southeast Asia.

The operation, headed by Kiwi Terry Clark, featured at least six murders, many more suspect deaths, kindergarten teachers as drug mules and corrupt Aussie cops.

Clark’s mansion at Okiato Pt, above Opua in the Bay of Islands became known to locals as “Mr Big’s house”. He had an expensive speedboat and drove around in a Jaguar XJS.

Did these locals report their suspicions to the cops or to Customs?

Perhaps, but most certainly after two murders:  

Cops on both sides of the Tasman were watching Clark and his cronies closely in Opua, undercover drug cops pretended to fish while watching Mr Big’s house.

Whaitiri will be counting on any modern-day Mr Big being quickly flushed out.

Border Protect is an information campaign that Customs will run across the country, focused on the coastline, sea ports, marinas, airports, and Customs-controlled areas such as international freight arrival and storage points.

It aims to educate people who work or live in these areas about what cross-border criminal activities look like, and encourage them to report it through a confidential 24/7 hotline 0800 WE PROTECT or to someone in their local Customs team.

 “We know that criminals have continued their illicit drug trade, despite COVID-19, and are agile in adapting their smuggling methods. For this reason, Customs must remain vigilant – and this is where everyone can play a part,” she says.

“Even a small snippet of information, no matter how trivial it might seem, could fit into a bigger puzzle and be exactly what law enforcement agencies were seeking to take down the criminal network involved – you could make a real difference.

 “Illicit drugs harm our whānau, our businesses and our way of life, with some of our most vulnerable communities being the most affected. In addition to the Government’s health-based initiatives, Customs’ role remains critical in order to disrupt the supply of illegal drugs from reaching our shores.”

Customs last year established an Opua-based maritime team and equipped them with a 9 metre vessel – Āraia – to conduct “outreach and patrol activities”.

This team will help to spread the word about Border Protect.

Outreach teams in Auckland and Christchurch will focus on Customs-controlled areas.

Budget 2018 allocated an additional $58.1 million including $3.9 million capital funding to Customs, over four years, to boost its capabilities to fight international drug smuggling networks targeting New Zealand.

This Government investment enabled a 10 per cent larger workforce, mainly in operational roles including the Customs outreach teams in Opua, Auckland, and Christchurch, new intelligence capabilities, and international posts to disrupt the flow of drugs destined for New Zealand and target overseas criminal networks.

The capital investment was used to build the Opua-based vessel Āraia (which means to ‘stop’, ‘prevent’ or ‘block’) in addition to other initiatives. The vessel has excellent manoeuvrability, a cruising speed of 30 knots, is small enough to transport around the region by road, and can patrol in secluded coastal areas.

Information on signs of cross-border crime that can be visible in communities, workplaces and around New Zealand’s coast can be found at https://www.customs.govt.nz/report

 Members of the public can report their suspicions by calling 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768) confidentially or anonymously.

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One thought on “Beware, Mr Big – we are being encouraged to blow the whistle on anything suspicious under new Customs initiative

  1. Actually this is not new. Customs has had the Coastwatch programme, similar albeit apparently smaller in scope to this “new” programme, since 1976.

    Like

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