Crayons for little Joel's Christmas destroyed by NZ Customs

Beware the Christmas grinch lurking at the New Zealand border - they’re on the lookout for potentially dangerous toxic toys, including children’s crayons.

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Three-year-old Joel's Christmas present is considered potentially toxic, along with chalk watercolour paints and felt tips. Source: Fair Go

Hamilton parents David and Laurelle discovered this when their order of crayons was destroyed by Customs, because they didn’t have an importation permit for the art supplies.

“It definitely seems a waste of many people’s time, the courier’s time and our time,” says David.

The couple had bought the crayons as part of a bigger order of Christmas presents for their three-year-old son Joel, who loves drawing - especially in crayon.

“He’s got that artistic side to him, writing, drawing numbers and colouring in," David says.

“We were buying other stuff at the time [and] they were a good price - not something we thought would stop the whole order."

Now Joel’s creativity has been stymied, the crayons are gone and there’ll be no art supplies in his Santa stocking - because the Environmental Protection Agency says kids’ crayons, felt tips, watercolour paints and chalk cannot be brought into New Zealand without a permit, which requires expensive laboratory testing.

“We thought it was strange,” says David.

“Never heard of crayons being stopped at the border before."

The rule doesn’t apply to adult art supplies - something Joel also has in his house, because dad David is a children’s book illustrator.

“I use Crayola stuff myself when I’m drawing, so I don’t know where the line is,” says David.

The EPA says it distinguishes between crayons for children and crayons for adults by the packaging.

“Because of children’s behaviour, they’re much more likely, for example, to put the crayon into their mouths, and therefore they increase their exposure to potentially hazardous substances," says the EPA’s Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter.

Customs can’t say if it stops every packet of crayons at the border, nor whether it distinguishes between gifts sent to children and purchases made by parents from overseas websites.

However, it says adults' crayons and children’s crayons have different classifications, “so we can take the appropriate action to enforce importation controls without delaying other similar goods", according to a spokesperson.

Last year, 32 packages of crayons were stopped - this year’s tally is at 29.

Joel’s Mum and Dad are going back to the drawing board for new gift ideas - maybe some coloured pencils. They’re not on the naughty list.