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Customs cards for countries with sensitive ecosystems like Australia or New Zealand require passengers to declare items that have been used outdoors, including hiking boots or diving equipment (e.g. a freediving/snorkeling mask). There's nothing on the form about whether these items have been cleaned or not, which makes it a waste of time for everyone (the passenger and the customs personnel) to declare a cleaned pair of hiking shoes, for example.

Should passengers still declare these? What happens if you don't declare a pair of shoes you've used to hike 2 weeks ago but have thoroughly washed since?

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Yes, you should absolutely declare such items.

The problem is that one persons idea of "thoroughly washed" is going to be different to the next person - which will likely be different to what the customs staff require.

These regulations exist to stop pathogens of various forms from entering the country. In many cases, simply giving the boots a quick hose-down might be enough to make them look clean, but may not be enough to properly remove all such pathogens.

By declaring the goods, customs/bio-security staff can inspect them and determine if further action is required. If the items have been suitable cleaned (relatively to where they were used, for example) then this will require minimal effort from both parties. If they determine that further cleaning is required then there will be more of a delay - but obviously in that case it's justified!

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  • Makes sense in general. I my case, I showed the diving mask, and the officer said "Oh, just wanted to see that there's no seaweed on it". Do some customs have pathogen disinfection facilities? I haven't seen anything obvious in Auckland, NZ. – Dan Dascalescu Feb 3 at 20:22
  • Both Australia and NZ (and likely many other countries) have facilities to treat all sorts of items coming into the country. Sometimes these will be on-site and done "while-you-wait", other times they are off-site and the items will be delivered to you. Sometimes they are free, sometimes not. If you're a visitor, they can also often store items for collection when you leave the country if that makes more sense to the situation. – Doc Feb 3 at 21:50

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