New Zealand legislation grants health officers a range of powers relating to arriving international aircraft. The key provisions from the Health Act 1956 and the Health (Quarantine) Regulations 1983 are summarised below.
The following information is more generic in nature and not specific to the COVID-19 response.
For more information on border health legislative controls, go to:
Boarding, detention, and inspection of aircraft
Health officers or authorised practitioners can enter an aircraft if they have reason to believe a person has, or has recently been exposed to, a notifiable infectious disease (s 77, Health Act 1956).
If a person has died or become ill from a quarantinable disease on an aircraft, or a death has occurred amongst birds, insects, or rodents on the craft, that was not from standard pest control procedures, a medical officer of health or other authorised person can require aircraft to be detained for inspection (s 97B, Health Act 1956).
A medical officer of health or health protection officer can board an aircraft liable to quarantine to inspect it (s 101(2), Health Act 1956).
Authorised health officials also have a generic power of entry and inspection that allows them to enter aircraft to inspect and execute thereon any works authorised under the Health Act (s 128, Health Act 1956).
Require steps to be taken
If a medical officer of health or health protection officer reasonably believes an arriving aircraft has a person on board with a quarantinable disease, or one has been exposed to such in the last 14 days, they can require the captain to take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of infection (s 97D, Health Act 1956). This includes:
- destroying birds, rodents, or insects
- removing or abating conditions on the craft likely to convey infection.
Redirection of aircraft
Aircraft that arrive from overseas at a non-Customs airport can be redirected to a Customs airport if a medical officer of health or inspector of health considers that certain sanitary measures are needed for the aircraft or persons on board (Regulation 4, Health (Quarantine) Regulations 1983).
If an epidemic management notice applies, a medical officer of health can require landed aircraft to travel to another place (s 74D, Health Act 1956).
Cleaning, disinfection, disinsection, fumigation of aircraft
A medical officer of health or health protection officer can require cleansing, fumigation or disinfection of an aircraft if it is in an unsanitary condition, or if conditions favourable to disease outbreak exist (s 110, Health Act 1956). Powers regarding spraying of aircraft to destroy mosquitoes also apply (Regulations 6–7, Health (Quarantine) Regulations 1983).
MPI manage and deliver the routine programme for aircraft disinsection for all arriving aircraft. This is an important control for managing the risk of insects, including mosquitoes, being brought into New Zealand and establishing here. At times additional residual disinsection may also need to be applied after cleansing aircraft.
For more information, including videos which demonstrate to airlines and disinsection applicators, the different types of disinsection methods and how they must be applied, see Aircraft disinsection procedures for flights into Australia and New Zealand (Australian Department of Agriculture).