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PSA slams proposal to cut 100 roles from Customs and DIA, including from airports and counter terrorism team

Azaria Howell,
Publish Date
Mon, 22 Apr 2024, 1:16pm
The New Zealand Customs Service has been asked to find cost savings of 6.5 per cent. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)
The New Zealand Customs Service has been asked to find cost savings of 6.5 per cent. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

PSA slams proposal to cut 100 roles from Customs and DIA, including from airports and counter terrorism team

Azaria Howell,
Publish Date
Mon, 22 Apr 2024, 1:16pm

More than 100 roles are set to be cut from the New Zealand Customs Service and Department of Internal Affairs in the latest sweep of public sector cutback announcements.

The Public Service Association, the union representing public servants, states 79 roles are proposed to go from Customs, with 41 on the chopping block at the Department of Internal Affairs; a number of the roles are called ‘critical’ and ‘frontline’ by the PSA.

According to the union, which gets consulted on the proposals, 11 staff at the Department of Internal Affairs’ Digital Safety Group will go, including investigation and advisory roles in child exploitation and countering violent extremism.

The DIA’s proposal would also see the anti-money laundering group slashed from 51 people to 30, with 24 roles set to be disestablished and three to be created for investigations.

The union describes the roles set to be chopped as being under a team supervising more than 5,000 financial institutions, including casinos, law firms, accountants, and real estate agents.

The Auckland team would lose six staff, with Wellington proposed to lose four, and a number of other jobs on the chopping block in service design and practice.

DIA’s strategy and capability group is proposed to be disestablished entirely.

Job cuts at Customs include a plan to remove 22 roles from the trade, revenue, and compliance service delivery team - a majority of which in Auckland and Christchurch. This proposal would see 11 out of 15 roles in the assurance team slashed, with the Christchurch assurance group disestablished in its entirety.

12 jobs in border operations at customs are on the line, six in Auckland, five in Christchurch, and one in Wellington.

The PSA states the plan includes disestablishing Christchurch’s supervising customs officer role, meaning staff based in Christchurch would be required to report to a specialist in Auckland, rather than someone locally.

Meanwhile, seven jobs under ‘operations, intelligence, investigations, and enforcement’ are said to be on the line, including the Chief Customs Officer and two out of three detector-dog training positions in Auckland.

5 roles dealing with maritime customs operations would be cut, one each from Auckland, Whangarei, Gisborne, Timaru, and Invercargill.

The PSA said in a statement “this will remove the daily Customs presence from Whangarei, Gisborne, Timaru and Invercargill ports and transfer the work to Opua, Napier, Lyttleton and Dunedin ports respectively.”

The announcements come on the back of 33 Customs staff accepting voluntary redundancy or early retirement in recent months.

The agency had previously confirmed it had been identifying and implementing ways to bring down costs, including travel, accommodation, contractor and consultant spends.

Customs is one of many agencies urged to find 6.5 per cent cost-savings in its books, in relation to the Government’s directive to find savings across the public sector. For many other agencies, the scramble to find 6.5 per cent savings has led to job reduction proposals.

Customs confirmed staff are being consulted on “further proposed organisation changes” to meet the Government’s asks on cost savings and future cost pressures “while ensuring Customs retains the ability to deliver frontline border services and critical supporting functions as well as delivering on Government priorities”.

“Final decisions will be made once the consultation process has been completed and feedback has been assessed,” the agency said in a statement, adding final decisions will be provided by the end of May.

In a prior statement to NZME, Customs confirmed further options were being considered, including reviewing existing vacancies.

Staff are being informed that consultation begins this afternoon.

Under the tab “what we do” on the New Zealand Customs website, the agency describes its main purpose as “to stop any dangers, hazards and threats entering New Zealand”.

“This includes everything from illegal weapons, objectionable material and drugs, to dangerous people and hazardous substances - anything that might threaten New Zealanders and their livelihoods,” the agency says in its own description, adding it also helps “protect and nurture” our economy.

“We collect duties, excise taxes and the goods and services tax (GST) due on imports and exports. We protect New Zealand businesses against illegal trade and copyright infringements, and we enforce import and export restrictions,” the agency adds, describing itself as “New Zealand’s gatekeepers”.

Last Wednesday saw the Ministry of Education and children’s ministry Oranga Tamariki announce proposals that would see more than 1,000 jobs culled from the two agencies alone.

It was called a “brutal day” by those opposing the cuts, including the Public Service Association.

Azaria Howell is a Wellington-based multimedia reporter with an eye across the region. She joined NZME in 2022 and has a keen interest in city council decisions, public service agency reform and transport.

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