Smuggling

Over the years smuggling has always taken place on our Wharfs and Sea Ports to a greater or lessor degree, depending on demand. Today it’s Drugs, Cigarettes, and liquor that are number one items that are smuggled as they carry the greatest duty, or availability. I’m not familiar with today’s impost on a bottle of whisky, but years ago when I lived in a Sea Port, a bottle of whisky was only 75 cents on board a ship, against One Pound seven shillings on shore, when duty was added. The 75 cents value was after all manufacturing profits and distribution costs had been met. The Duty Free shops at our Air Ports used to be an attraction, but today, now that duty and sales tax have been removed, there is very little incentive shop Duty Free, except to avoid GST. In my youth, drugs were never deemed to be much of a problem, most Drugs that are now causing our establishment so many problems, years ago were freely available from our Chemists in one form or another. Opiates were even added to cough medicines and goodness knows what else. Sure, some people not that long ago became addicted to certain remedies that contained a decent slug of the now forbidden drugs. I don’t know when laudanum was withdrawn as a cure all, but it wasn’t all that long ago. But I can remember in my time it was possible to purchase legally, Indian hemp or Marijuana cigarettes from your Chemists, as a cure all for respiratory problems. Marijuana seeds were available and possibly still are, to bird fanciers as a plumage enhancer The only drugs back a few years that I can think caused the Police and Authorities problems, was Opium and Alcohol. Opium went out of fashion when derivatives were refined from it. However, Alcohol has always been with us, when duty as a disincentive was heaped onto it, it was only natural that folk would try and distil their own. One former work mate Lew Maclean went into the distilling business in a big way, supplying several of Dunedin’s Hotels with cheap product. I was unaware of his illegal activity, but at the height of his activity was very puzzled by the fact I was under some very clumsy survalence. He was caught by the fact he was a very high user of electricity, and the problem of having to get rid of the mash after the distilling. When he was caught Mr Plod lost interest in me, and I had the answer to why I had been followed every where I went, over the past six months.

From time to time there is an article that is in short supply, possibly exacerbated by import restrictions, or perhaps something even new to our market. A case in point, was the initial introduction of small battery powered transistor radio. You couldn’t buy one in retailer’s shop for love nor money, but you could pick up half a dozen in any pub in the area. These were being sold quite openly for ten dollars each. At the heart of these radios was the new transistors which made the reduction in size possible. The transistor may have had a humble beginning, but in this form it was our first taste what the transistor was capable off, and we liked it. Further, there was an insatiable demand for this kind of product. And what an industry it has turned out to be, and look at what it’s been responsible for. In fact today, we couldn’t run our business, or even our country without computers of which the transistor, again is the main component.

Long ago I was a smoker, and I had developed a taste for American cigarettes. During the War and in the Services I was able to buy cheaply the Brands I liked, and in unlimited supply. After the War it was an entirely a different situation. The only cigarettes on sale were rationed, so I was always on the look out for a supply of American Cigarettes, especially from the ships that were calling here on a regular basis. On one visit to a Norwegian Vessel to sell them some milk, I casually inquired from the Purser while carrying out the transaction, Did he have any American Cigarettes he could sell me. The response I got was unbelievable, he immediately started screaming at me. ‘Do you want me to lose my job. Don’t you see the custom officers over there?’ pointing to three Custom men ten metres away who were leaning over the rail of the ship, who were having a good giggle over my discomfort as this ships officer verbally waded into me. The nerve of this fellow and under our noses too. The Watersiders were also having a good laugh at my inept attempt to get my hands on some cigarettes. The Officer walked me down to my truck still carrying on about how inappropriate my request was with three crew members following obediently behind carrying the milk churns. When we got to the truck he said, ‘That performance will cost you five pounds’. One of the cans was jammed packed full with cartons of American cigarettes. Sometimes what you see and hear, is exactly what you are meant to see and hear.

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