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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).

When you prepare cargo to be shipped to New Zealand

When you prepare cargo to be shipped to New Zealand

  • 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.

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. 

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 are generally of animal or plant origin. However, 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 a product may be imported. These include either a phytosanitary (plant health) certificate, zoo sanitary certificate, or a CITES certificate.

Import health standards (external link)  on the MPI website has more information.

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

  • 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 (external link) for any item imported. Other Government agencies such as the NZ Transport Agency (external link) may also require inspection or action relating to the importing process. There are also special requirements for importing food (external link) .

CITES certificate (external link) — Department of Conservation

Animal and animal product imports

Live animals

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

MPI’s guide to importing live animals (external link)  explains what you need to do to import different types of animals into New Zealand.

Animal products

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

Search for your particular product on the Import health standards (external link)  on the MPI website – including the Import Health Standard for Specified Foods for Human Consumption Containing Animal Products PDF for private consignments of meat products.

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 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 (such as 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 mitigate the risks associated with bringing high-risk items into New Zealand.

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

Steps for importing seeds for sowing (external link)

Steps for importing plants nursery stock (external link)

Plant and plant products guidelines (external link) on the MPI website has advice on the plants rules and regulations governing specific imports.

Fresh and saltwater organism imports

Ornamental fish and marine invertebrates

Ornamental fish (both freshwater and marine) and marine invertebrates may be imported under the Ornamental fish and marine invertebrates from all countries - Import Health Standard. Only species listed in this standard are eligible for importation. On arrival in New Zealand, imported fish and marine invertebrates must complete post-arrival quarantine. Fish quarantine facilities are approved by MPI and are privately owned.

Marine fish and fisheries products

To import dead marine fish and marine fisheries products for human consumption, you need to be listed as an importer with MPI.

Steps to importing (external link)  on the MPI website has more information about the rules and regulations governing imports of microorganisms.

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
  • 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.

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Search for your particular product on the Import health standards (external link) on the MPI website.

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) on the MPI website has import guides containing standards.

Vehicles and machinery

All used vehicles entering New Zealand have to be inspected and cleaned (if necessary) before release by MPI border clearance services (external link) . 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.

This includes:

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 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 (external link) .

  • 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.

Import health standards (external link) - Ministry for Primary Industries

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