"It has been an absolute pleasure to be here to open this," New Zealand Minister of Customs Meka Whaitiri said during an official opening of the Customs e-Gates to Chinese e-passport holders on Friday.
New Zealand Customs e-Gates, formerly known as the SmartGate, is a system to facilitate travellers to pass the Customs easier. The system uses biometrics to match the picture in e-passport with the picture it takes of the passport holder at the gate. It is much efficient than traditional manual way of passing through the Customs.
E-Gates were introduced at New Zealand airports in 2009, and China is the sixth country that the service opens to, after New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Britain and Canada.
Earlier this year, the New Zealand government announced to launch facilitation procedures for Chinese citizens' customs clearance in New Zealand airports and offer multi-entry visas valid for up to five years. One of the main aims of those measures is to attract more Chinese tourists to New Zealand.
Whaitiri told Xinhua that China is the second largest international tourism market for New Zealand and the Chinese tourists contribute quite a lot to local economy.
New Zealand values Chinese visitors to the country. The opening of e-Gates to Chinese tourists is a measure to make their experience through the Customs and Immigration checks an easy one.
"What a lovely sight to see your (the Chinese) flag and your (the Chinese) language up there (in the screen) to help facilitate the many Chinese visitors we want to welcome on our shores," Whaitiri told Xinhua.
Qu Guangzhou, charge d'affaires of the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand, cut a red ribbon with Whaitiri in front of the e-Gates in Auckland Airport on Friday.
He said the number of Chinese tourists to New Zealand keeps growing in recent years. The fact that they can use eGates to facilitate their journey is much more convenient.
Chinese e-passport program started in 2013. Currently, about 70 percent of Chinese passport holders have e-passports, who will be able to use e-Gates when they come to New Zealand.
New Zealand Customs Acting Comptroller Christine Stevenson said that expanding e-Gates to more countries will help to manage the increasing number of travellers arriving and departing New Zealand.
"By allowing eligible passengers to complete their Customs and Immigration checks quickly and easily, it also enables Customs officers to focus on travellers who may present a higher risk," said Stevenson.
New Zealand Custom e-Gates are available in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown to eligible e-passport holders aged 12 years and over.