A New Zealand woman was fined no less than 3,300 New Zealand dollars (1,850 euros) for a chicken sandwich she forgot about when passing border control at Brisbane Airport. She bought the sandwich in Christchurch, New Zealand, before travelling to Brisbane in order to house-sit for friends and didn’t realise it was still in her handbag when arriving in Australia.
June Armstrong, a 77 year old grandmother, was stopped by bio-security officers at Brisbane Airport for the sandwich on 2 May 2023. At first, the woman thought they were telling a joke but once she understood they were being serious about the fine, she allegedly started crying. A staff member then advised her to appeal within the 28-day payment period.
After paying the fine, June did indeed appeal by sending an e-mail defending her case. She mentioned she simply forgot about the – unopened – sandwich, spoke about the effect of the subject on her mental health and asked why the fine was so high. She explained how she and her husband only had their pensions and a 30,000 New Zealand dollars savings account and therefore couldn’t afford to pay such a high price for such a small infringement. However, her e-mail only got an automatic reply and now, six months after the event, June Armstrong has accepted she won’t receive any money back.
The case of June Armstrong did receive quite a bit of attention in Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand Herald even reached out to Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for an explanation, which they received.
“Meat has strict import conditions which can change quickly based on disease outbreaks. Uncanned meats, including vacuum-sealed items, are not allowed into Australia unless accompanied by an import permit. Where travellers fail to declare risk items, they may be given an infringement notice up to AU$6260 ($6790). All food products must be declared on arrival and may be inspected to ensure they comply with import conditions. Items that do not meet these conditions are not permitted into Australia”, a spokesperson said.