What biosecurity means for importers
New Zealand’s biosecurity system is managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries ( MPI). Biosecurity safeguards protect the health and safety of all New Zealanders and the welfare of our natural environment and Maori taonga.
For importers this means that there are a few legal responsibilities and regulations that you’ll need to be aware of. It’s important that an importer checks with MPI before importing any goods that could be deemed a biosecurity hazard and obtains any permissions needed to legally import goods.
Failing to declare restricted goods could result in the owner of the goods being fined up to $100,000 or a company being fined up to $200,000.
On this page:
- Rules for all importers
- Animal and animal product imports
- Plants and plant product imports
- Fresh and saltwater organism imports
- Other imports (such as shipping containers and used vehicles)
When preparing cargo for shipping to New Zealand:
- Pack mixed consignments carefully to reduce risk of contamination.
- Check freight containers and packaging for spiders, insects or animals.
- Make sure packages are addressed clearly and include a New Zealand contact telephone number.
Products brought into New Zealand that could contain unwanted pests or organisms are subject to an Import Health Standard. Imports that could affect New Zealand biosecurity are generally of animal or plant origin. However, there are other imports that can also contain biosecurity risks, including sea containers, used vehicles, machinery and used tyres.
To meet Import Health Standard requirements, various certificates might be required before a product may be imported. These include either a Phytosanitary certificate, Zoo sanitary certificate, or a CITES certificate.
On reaching New Zealand, goods will be released once they have been checked and cleared by MPI’s cargo clearance services:
- Goods that don’t comply with New Zealand laws will be destroyed or sent back to the country of origin at the owner’s expense.
- If certificates are missing, incorrect or incomplete, the goods may be destroyed or sent back to the country they came from.
- Goods that contain pests or diseases will either be treated or destroyed.
Importers might also require New Zealand Customs clearance for any item imported. Other Government agencies such as the NZ Transport Agency may also require inspection or action relating to the importing process. There are also special requirements for importing food.
Live animals must meet certain conditions to enter New Zealand legally – these generally depend on the country of origin and the type of animal. If you’re considering importing an animal you’ll need to consult MPI’s Import Health Standards (IHS) to see if the animal is included. Only animals that have an IHS are able to enter New Zealand.
Some animals may also be prohibited owing to their protected status. For a list of prohibited animals, consult MPI’s importing guide: what you must declare – animals.
Animal products include any kind of meat (fresh or preserved), eggs or dairy products. Animal products will need to meet certain requirements covered by Import Health Standards.
For information about private consignments of meat products, see the following Import Health Standard for Specified Foods Containing Animal Products. Search the Import Health Standards for a particular product you want to import. An inspection may be required to decide whether or not the product is eligible for importation.
MPI classifies imported plant material as either propagable or non-propagable (reproductive or non-reproductive):
- Propagable produce generally consists of seeds for sowing, or plants or cuttings that can be used to grow further plants.
- Non-propagable produce includes a variety of material most often used in building or packaging.
The import laws and regulations vary depending on the type of material you want to import.
Here are the requirements for importing propagable plant material:
Here are the requirements for importing non-propagable plant products:
- Fresh Cut Flowers & Foliage
- Forest and Wood Products
- Fruit & Vegetables
- Plant Products
- Grain and Seed for processing and consumption
- Micro-organisms, Microbiological products and Lab Specimens
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Import health standards are put in place for the import of plant and plant products into New Zealand. These standards include the requirements that must be undertaken in the exporting country, during transit and during importation, before biosecurity clearance can be given. The standards exist to mitigate the risks associated with bringing risk items into New Zealand.
Ornamental fish and marine invertebrates
Ornamental fish (both freshwater and marine) and marine invertebrates may be imported under the Import Health Standard for the importation of Ornamental Fish and Marine Invertebrates. Only species listed in this standard are eligible for importation. Imported fish and marine invertebrates must complete post arrival quarantine on arrival in New Zealand. Fish quarantine facilities are approved by MPI and are privately owned.
Marine fish and fisheries products
Dead marine fish and marine fisheries products for human consumption may be imported under the Import Health Standard for all countries. There is a separate Import Health Standard for the importation of fisheries products from the European Union. These import health standards also apply to the importation of shellfish and other specific marine organisms such as sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Fish that live all, or part, of their lifecycle in freshwater are not eligible for importation under these standards.
Freshwater fish and fisheries products
Fish that live all, or part, of their lifecycle in freshwater must be cooked or heat treated before importation is possible. Some species of fish may be imported under separate standards including:
- Salmon from Australia, Norway, Canada, the United States of America or the commercial imports of salmon from the European Union.
- Tilapia fillets from Brazil and the People’s Republic of China.
- Catfish fillets from Vietnam.
- Nile perch from certain African countries.
Other fisheries products
Other fisheries products that may be imported include fish food and bait, fish eggs, roe or caviar and fish meal. It may also be possible to import other fish/aquatic products for human consumption that have been heat treated or are for private use.
Generally, goods that could affect New Zealand’s biosecurity are of either animal or plant origin; however, there are other risk goods that have implications for both plant and animal health. All goods imported into New Zealand with the potential to introduce pests, diseases or unwanted organisms must be subject to an Import Health Standard regardless of type.
Standards for containers
Shipping and sea containers are the most popular methods of importing and exporting goods, but like their contents, they will need to be certified and cleared by MPI.
Read the import guide containing standards for:
- Air Containers
- Sea Containers
- Import Health Standard for Importation of Inorganic Risk Materials.
Vehicles and machinery
All used vehicles entering New Zealand have to be inspected and cleaned (if necessary) before release by the MPI Clearance Service. The place of inspection will depend on the method of arrival.
All used vehicles and equipment will be examined for the presence of quarantine materials. This includes the inspection of all internal and external surfaces and of spaces, to check for soil, plant material, insects or other contamination.
- Cars, vans and utility vehicles.
- Used vehicles.
- Agricultural and forestry machinery (or machinery that has been used in this application).
- Used tyres (of any kind).
In the case of vehicles that will be registered to be used on the road, a further inspection is carried out on behalf of the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA). This inspection is to record the odometer reading, confirm the identity number against documentation provided by the importer, and to identify any structural damage that may be present.
Vehicle clearance information online
Importers can access up-to-date vehicle status, inspection, processing and clearance information through the MPI Vehicle Tracking Website.
- Importers can track and trace the biosecurity inspection status of their vehicles by entering their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or Bill of Lading (BOL) number to the website.
- Port companies can download biosecurity inspection processing data via the web service and manage holds in their systems.
- Review import vehicle data nationally and internationally.
Find out about how to protect the intellectual property of goods you import and the implications of infringing on the intellectual property rights of other products or services already available in New Zealand with An introduction to IP.
Find out about consumer laws for Manufacturers and importers.