New Customs boss sends warning

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The new head of Customs at Queenstown Airport pre­dicts credit card scammers and cigarette smugglers could try their luck locally. 

Experienced Customs official John Parker tells Mountain Scene: “The greatest risk for Queenstown would possibly be people who are involved in the scamming of credit cards. 

“They are getting picked up at the bigger airports and we may see them try their luck at the smaller ones,” he says. 

“It’s also quite possible people may try and attempt to go back to the old way of smuggling cigarettes to avoid the duty that’s being increased again.” 

Parker, who started in his new Queenstown role last month, is one of Customs New Zealand’s most experienced managers and brings more than 40 years’ experience to Queens­town Airport. 

Queenstown provided the perfect opportunity for him to move from Auckland for the first time. 

“I’d been working at Auckland Airport for over 18 years so I knew the airport operation inside out and it got to the point where I was looking for a new challenge,” Parker says. 

“It was an interesting choice, coming from the busiest airport in NZ to the quickest growing airport in Aust­ralasia. 

“It’s giving me an opportunity to try and improve things in Queenstown.” 

Parker has responsibility for the part-time Queens­town team who’ll be pushed as more than 1500 international passengers arrive in just three hours on Saturday – the second day of Queens­town’s Winter Festival. 

Last month, airport passenger numbers in­creased by nearly 12 per cent year on year and Parker predicts the same growth, if not more. 

August will be even busier with 12 international and 30 domestic flights arriving on one day, he says. 

“Growth in the airport is something I need to focus on because as it gets busier here, the pressure is going to come on, and we don’t want passengers waiting around – especially in the cold during winter.” 

Parker has already introduced some changes to speed up the flow of passengers through border control. 

“The one thing that passengers probably want is a quick process. So I’ve made some adjustments and improvements to the otherwise tried and true method here,” Parker says. 

Queenstown is the fourth busiest in the country behind Auckland, Christ­church and Wellington but Parker says this may change as Queenstown continues growing. 

“We are increasing at a rate that maybe in another year or two it’s quite possible that we could be busier than Wellington.”