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Biosecurity for importers

Biosecurity protects the health and safety of all New Zealanders and the welfare of our natural environment and Maori taonga. New Zealand’s biosecurity is managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

If you’re an importer, you need to be aware of your legal responsibilities and regulations and must get permission from MPI before importing goods that could be considered a biosecurity hazard. 

If an owner fails to declare restricted goods they could be fined up to $100,000 or a company can be fined up to $200,000. 

Preparing cargo to be shipped to New Zealand

Preparing cargo to be shipped to New Zealand

When you are preparing cargo to be shipped to New Zealand, you should:

  • pack mixed consignments carefully to reduce risk of contamination.
  • check freight containers and packaging for insects or animals.
  • address packages clearly and include a New Zealand contact phone number.

Rules for all importers

Products brought into New Zealand that could contain unwanted pests or organisms need to follow import health standards. Imports that could affect New Zealand biosecurity generally originate from animals or plants, but other imports – including sea containers, used vehicles, machinery and used tyres – can also contain biosecurity risks.

To meet import health standard requirements, certificates might be needed before you can import a product. These include either a phytosanitary (plant health) certificate, zoo sanitary certificate, or a CITES certificate.

Once goods have arrived in New Zealand they’ll be checked and cleared by MPI’s border clearance services, before being released. Please note that:

  • 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.

Depending on what you’re importing, you might also require New Zealand Customs clearance, and other agencies like the NZ Transport Agency might be involved. There are also special requirements for importing food.

Animal and animal product imports

Live animals

Live animals, including freshwater and marine ornamental fish and marine invertebrates, 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 to see if the animal is included. Only animals that have an IHS are able to enter New Zealand.

Some animals may be prohibited because of their protected status. You can find more information about endangered species restrictions on the MPI website.

Importing live animals (external link) — Ministry for Primary Industries

Animal products

Animal products include any kind of meat (fresh or preserved), eggs or dairy products. Imported animal products need to meet certain requirements.

An inspection may be required to decide whether or not the product is eligible for importation.

Plants and plant product imports

Imported plant material is classified as either propagable or non-propagable (reproductive or non-reproductive):

  • Propagable produce is usually 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 (like wood or timber).

There are import health standards for both propagable and non-propagable plant products. These standards include requirements that must be undertaken in the exporting country, and during transit and importation before biosecurity clearance can be given. The standards exist to make sure these imported goods aren’t harbouring unwanted pests or diseases.

The import laws and regulations vary depending on the type of material you want to import:

All goods imported into New Zealand that could introduce pests, diseases or unwanted organisms must be subject to an import health standard.

All goods imported into New Zealand that could introduce pests, diseases or unwanted organisms must be subject to an import health standard.

Shipping containers and used vehicles

Generally, goods that could affect New Zealand’s biosecurity are of either animal or plant origin. However, there are other goods that have implications for both plant and animal health.

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.

Containers and cargo (external link) — Ministry for Primary Industries

Vehicles and machinery

All used vehicles entering New Zealand have to be inspected and cleaned (if necessary) before release by MPI border clearance services. 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 spaces, to check for soil, plant material, insects or other contamination.

Vehicles and machinery (external link) — Ministry for Primary Industries

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.
  • All interested parties can review import vehicle data nationally and internationally.

MPI vehicle tracking (external link) — Ministry for Primary Industries

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