9 Jan 2019

NZ consulate in Melbourne receives suspicious package

8:20 pm on 9 January 2019

Staff at the New Zealand consulate in Melbourne were evacuated today after suspicious packages were found by several foreign consulates in the city.

Melbourne police car generic

Photo: 123RF

Footage showed emergency services workers attended the US, Greek, French, Italian, Hong Kong, Indian, New Zealand, Pakistan and Swiss consulates.

It comes two days after the ABC understands the Argentinian consulate in Sydney was sent three bags containing asbestos and fibreglass.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed that the New Zealand Consulate General in Melbourne received a suspicious package this afternoon.

The ministry said staff were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

One New Zealand official told the ABC their consulate received an envelope full of small plastic bags with what appeared to be concrete and asbestos.

Written on the outside of the bag was the word "asbestos".

A police officer was seen inside the New Zealand consulate wearing a face mask.

One official from Pakistan's consulate told the ABC that she opened a suspicious envelope at 10:00am (Melbourne time), which appeared to contain asbestos.

She told the ABC she was "scared of what might happen".

The official said she was told by the authorities to wash her hands.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it was aware of suspicious packages being delivered to embassies and consulates across Melbourne and Canberra.

"The packages are being examined by attending emergency services," a spokeswoman said.

"The circumstances surrounding these incidents are being investigated."

The Israeli embassy in Canberra has confirmed it also received a suspicious package.

In a statement, Victoria Police said they were aware that "a number" of consulate offices had received suspicious packages.

"At this time we believe the matter is targeted and not impacting the general community," the statement said.

"Victoria Police will work to assist the AFP and other agencies including the [Metropolitan Fire Brigade] with the management and investigation of this issue."

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) said it was assisting police.

More than a dozen hazardous material alerts have been issued on the VicEmergency website.

A spokesman for the US consulate in Melbourne also confirmed it had received a suspicious package.

"We handled the package according to our standard procedures and in close coordination with local authorities - the Melbourne Fire Brigade and the Australian Federal Police - who are investigating the incident," he said.

However the US embassy in Canberra was not targeted with a package, a spokesperson said.

Manuela Erb, the honorary consul of the Consulate of Switzerland in Melbourne, told the ABC that they had received a suspicious package at their Ashwood address.

"It's believed to be non-hazardous, however they're treating it as hazardous," she said.