An elderly South American on a luxury tour of New Zealand was almost chucked into police cells the day he arrived in Queenstown.
The 77-year-old, from Peru, and his wife - on a trip to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary - flew into Queenstown from Melbourne, Australia, on February 21 for a 10-day tour.
The non-English-speaking man was refused entry for failing to declare he’d brought in seeds and plants from Australia.
It’s believed the Peruvian is a keen botanist.
Unfortunately there weren’t any trans-Tasman flights out of Queenstown until the next day.
It’s understood Immigration NZ wanted to detain the tourist in police custody overnight.
Mountain Scene revealed last month that 49 visa rejects have been locked in police cells overnight over the past year.
That includes the high-profile case of French au pair Manon Pache, which Prime Minister John Key recently criticised.
In this latest case, the police were so concerned about the Peruvian’s age and condition they let him and his wife stay at their pre-booked five-star Sofitel hotel, before they were forced to fly back to Australia.
Immigration NZ national border boss Senta Jehle says the man was refused entry for falsely declaring he was carrying no plants or plant products.
“Subsequent searches revealed multiple packages of seeds and plant materials in his checked luggage.”
She says pests or diseases harboured in untreated seeds could potentially devastate the NZ economy.
She says because the next available flight out wasn’t till the next day, the Peruvian was handed over to police.
“Management of custody in these situations is a matter for the police.”
Local police senior sergeant Paula Enoka, however, says she can’t comment on the case: “We just hold somebody on behalf of Immigration.”
The man’s airline contact Immigration on March 1 and he was allowed to transit through Auckland as he flew to Santiago, Chile.
Jehle last month told Mountain Scene that Immigration NZ is reviewing custodial arrangements for people refused entry to airports.
Earlier this week she couldn’t say when any changes will be made.