I've always known that it would take something fairly serious to stop my going to kite festivals- like being dead, or locked up (for the public's protection of course), or total worldwide failure of wind- or?- couldn't think of anything much else that would do this. Kite Hitch Hiker
But there is; an unknown unknown' has snuck up on me.
Its origins were probably about a year ago.
A parapenter entering NZ was, for some reason, subjected to a customs search. Seeds and other vegetative matter was found lurking in nooks and crannies of the canopy's fabric.
An alert NZ biosecurity person then sent a bulletin to all NZ customs posts identifying parachutes, skydiving 'foils, parapents- and kites- as potential vectors by which biohazards could breach our border.
New Zealand is not over-reacting to this either. Unique amongst 'developed' countries, New Zealand makes it's living mainly from primary production:-dairy products, forestry, meat, wool, fish, mussels, kiwi fruit, wine, and small seeds. I am especially mindful of this because the Ashburton region produces a significant proportion of the world's small seeds (grass, clover, brassicas etc) as well as being one of the premium areas for dairying in the world. There'd be nothing that would get Peter Lynn Kites Ltd run out of this town faster than if some agricultural pest inimical to NZ's interests first became established on the kite field beside our factory.
The effect that introduced pests and diseases could have on the production of the things we grow and sell is just the smaller part of the problem.
The bigger part is that countries we sell our produce to are enthusiastic users of any excuses they can find to prevent our efficient producers from undercutting their uncompetitive ones.
Most countries have now agreed to fair trade rules established by the World Trade organisation- and so they should have- because they're in everyone's best interests- but these rules prohibit barriers to trade erected for purely protectionist reasons.
Politicians everywhere have therefore become adept at using 'biosecurity concerns' as an excuse for banning imports- it's easier than telling farmer/voters to lift their game.
Australia banned NZ apples for 90 years on the basis that we have the apple disease "fireblight" and they don't (but they do). The real reason for this ban was that Aussie apples cost twice as much, and their growers want to keep this margin- and have the ear of politicians in crucial electorates. A NZ scientist became so enraged at their barefaced lying that he took a clipping from an apple tree in the Melbourne (Australia) Botanic Gardens and bought it back to NZ- where, predictably, it tested positive for fireblight. Rather than Australia then admitting their perfidy and opening the trade, they charged the scientist involved with "exporting biological material without a permit".
But in the exercise of agricultural protectionism, Australia is a rank amateur in comparison to Europe, the USA and Japan.
New Zealand doesn't have big enough guns to make other countries deal fairly, so we have to be squeakier than clean.
The rules here are therefore hard nosed:- huge fines and imprisonment for knowingly importing seeds, plant material or anything likely to be harbouring bacterium, viruses, spores or insect larvae. Confiscation and instant fines for inadvertent importation of even seemingly insignificant items.
Perhaps it's a war that's unwinnable in the longer term anyway- with ever increasing trade and travelling, everything from everywhere will eventually become established here- but for now it's sensible to at least slow the rate as much a possible.
Three of the last four times I've come back into NZ from kite trips, I've been required to wait until other passengers are cleared, then taken to a search room where every one of the kites with me has been searched-inside and out. Bio Hazard Area
This is not good fun.
On the other occasion, my bags had been lost (Singapore Airlines this time, not Lufthansa!)- but I was still questioned specifically and intently about where I had been, what I'd been doing and so on. Notwithstanding their "just a random search" excuse- lying bastards- I'm obviously on their list as a dodgy person now and like for all profiling, the very need to deny the existence of such an approach ensures that there can be no mechanism for becoming "un-listed".
And don't believe "Border Patrol" and similar TV programs: customs officials and their bio-security colleagues are generally polite and reasonable, but there are inevitably a few who abuse their position by revelling in the exercise of petty authority. People with this inclination are no doubt drawn to such careers, (probably after having failed to get jobs as traffic officers), in the same way that paedophiles become priests.
But In all these searches of my kites- and in various other inspections over 40 years, nothing to arouse any interest has yet been found, a level of scrutiny that few other NZ arrivees could have sustained I expect.
Which is not accidental, because I believe in the cause and go to considerable lengths- like allowing an extra day after events for unpacking and re-packing kites in a clean environment if I'm not satisfied with the on-field packing. I have caught a few attempts to get in here- by a frog once and a gecko on another occasion, but don't think anything worrying has yet made it to NZ via me.
Profiling is an excellent way to optimise security resources, but in this case they're wasting their time (and mine). I hope that they will soon realise this and take me off their non-existent list- but this better happen real soon now; before I give up on travelling and become a kite hermit.
A partial answer is to store the kites I use in displays somewhere outside NZ, and I do this when possible, but it's not always practical. Pick up and re-checking at some way-point like Singapore often takes too long for same-day connections, and very often kites need to come back to NZ for repair between events anyway, or so that I'm not always flying the same old boring.
There's no obvious solution.
Peter Lynn, Ashburton, New Zealand, July 1st 2012
Peter Lynn Kites Ltd
105 Alford Forest Rd
Ph: +64 (0) 3 308 4538
Fax: + 64 (0)3 308 1905
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