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Declare or dispose: protecting New Zealand’s border with behaviour change

Phill Sherring (Department of Communications and Channels, New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, Wellington, New Zealand)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 13 June 2019

Issue publication date: 14 January 2020




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the case study of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Border Compliance Social Marketing programme. This programme aims to change the behaviour of international visitors to New Zealand. This is to protect New Zealand’s important horticultural and agricultural industries and environment from harmful pests and diseases. The programme encourages travellers to leave potential biosecurity risk items at home, or at least declare them to border staff or dispose of in special amnesty bins at New Zealand’s airports on arrival. It also influences local communities to advocate to friends and family overseas on MPI’s behalf.


Aimed at visitors with the highest identified risk, the programme uses a range of interventions in the pre-travel, in-journey and upon-arrival stages of travel. It is underpinned by social marketing theory and models, qualitative and ethnographic research and an understanding of the passenger journey.


The programme has delivered a significant reduction in the number of passengers being caught with prohibited items and has influenced behaviours in packing bags before travel and declaring items for inspection on arrival in New Zealand.


The programme contributes to the New Zealand biosecurity system, which protects the country’s key horticultural and agricultural industries. For example, the horticultural industry contributes $5.6bn annually to the New Zealand economy. It also protects native flora and fauna, which is a large attraction to overseas visitors, and contributes to the $12.9bn tourism industry.



Sherring, P. (2020), "Declare or dispose: protecting New Zealand’s border with behaviour change", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 85-104.



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