Every person who enters or leaves New Zealand must cross one of New Zealand’s 17 border points.  The main Public sector agencies that work together at New Zealand’s borders are Immigration New Zealand and New Zealand Customs Service.  The border agencies stop unwanted people, goods and materials from entering New Zealand.


The main comments we heard relating to New Zealand’s border came from people sharing their personal experiences of entering and exiting New Zealand, and their interactions with Public sector agencies at the border.  Others shared their thoughts about measures that should be taken at the border.


Experiences at the border


We heard from some people that they believed front-line staff from Immigration New Zealand and New Zealand Customs Service undertake racial profiling.  Some of the experiences people shared with us included a perception that Muslim individuals entering New Zealand, including those born in New Zealand and/or travelling on a New Zealand passport, face a longer screening process than non‑Muslim travellers. 


One submitter stated that an Immigration Profiling Group was established under the former Department of Labour (and split into two different entities in 2010) to vet people either coming from Muslim countries, or who identified as Muslim.  A submitter agreed that anyone wanting to come to New Zealand, including Australians, needs to be vetted upon entry.

I am not against vetting and criminal checking, I am against specifying for Muslims, why would I be different than any other human being? It has to be for all, an equal check-up and an equal vetting.  If we are all checked and vetted equally, this tragedy could have been avoided.

– Community organisation


We were told that members of the Muslim community were interviewed at the border and asked questions such as where they had been, what they were doing while they were away and whether they had contact with a terrorist group.  These situations were made worse if they had visited Somalia and the Middle East.  We also heard about Muslim women being asked by New Zealand Customs Service officials why they were wearing a hijab.

A few years ago my son travelled overseas for business …. When he came back he was interrogated for a couple of hours.  His laptop was looked at as well his phone and he wasn’t sure why.  The next time he travelled the same thing happened and he was very frustrated and started asking why?  He travelled often to bring business to New Zealand.  He had a New Zealand passport, so we do not understand the need for him to be screened each time at New Zealand’s border each time he returned from travel?  He was bluntly told in the end that they wanted to make sure he is not affiliated with ISIS!

– Member of the public


One person believed known white supremacists should be banned from entering New Zealand on character grounds as well as for security reasons.  People who are known for their white supremacist social media posts should be heavily monitored, including the connections they have with others, if they are allowed into the country, even for a holiday.

Border controls for people movements are always a delicate balance between managing risks and honouring privacy and human rights.  The answer for New Zealand needs to reflect our values and our geographic and political situation.

– Academic


Another person considered social media should be used as an intelligence tool at the border, by officials having access to people’s social media profiles if they meet high risk criteria, to collect broader information on their activities and networks.  Further, they believed anyone who is not a New Zealand resident or citizen should receive security screening when they visit New Zealand and New Zealand residents should also be screened if required.


One person told us they believed the individual would have been unlikely to have escaped observation if New Zealand Police had a system of national security alerts and if the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service was monitoring “alt right” websites.  If this was the case then participants on these websites would be under surveillance.  This information could then be shared with border agencies.  This submitter believed that this was already done in relation to Muslim individuals.


One person discussed in detail the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, which allows Australians to travel, live and work in New Zealand (and New Zealanders to travel, live and work in Australia), subject to a good character test.  The submitter believed that the good character test is more stringent in Australia due to its deportation policies, whereas New Zealand has maintained Australian citizens’ rights in New Zealand.  Neither country requires each other’s citizens to complete electronic travel information prior to travelling.


While not supporting a particular approach, the submitter queried whether there is a desire by the government to tighten provisions for Australians travelling to New Zealand or whether they should be replaced by an agreement establishing boundaries to trans-Tasman travel.  They asked us to consider existing border practices, including any barriers to information sharing.


Solutions proposed by submitters


A few submitters provided us with solutions relating to New Zealand’s border including: 

  1. increasing the cultural competency of border staff so that they can meaningfully engage with a broad range of cultures and ethnicities at the border;
  2. addressing how bias might manifest itself by staff at the border;
  3. increasing the diversity of staff at all levels of border agencies;
  4. ensuring that Australian citizens are vetted like non-New Zealanders are when crossing the border; and
  5. setting up systems to ensure that New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service share information from their databases with border agencies.