Steven-L-Johnson on Flickr© Steven-L-Johnson on Flickr
Steven-L-Johnson on Flickr

Arrival Advice: Biosecurity & Customs in New Zealand

© Steven-L-Johnson on Flickr

What to Declare When Arriving in New Zealand

Once you start exploring New Zealand, you’ll see how this is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. There are still vast areas of wilderness and native wildlife living here. Much of the plants and wildlife would be worse off or completely wiped out if there wasn’t a strict biosecurity system in place to stop people from bringing in foreign pests and diseases. For this reason, you will need to declare a few specific items when arriving in New Zealand. With this arrival advice guide, you’ll find out what to declare when arriving in New Zealand.

Biosecurity in New Zealand is governed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). This quick guide will go through the procedures enforced by MPI that you will encounter when arriving in New Zealand. For more steps in the arrival process, see Arrival Advice: Passport Control and Immigration.

What to Expect From Biosecurity When You Land in New Zealand

The arrival procedures may be stricter than what you are used to, but there’s nothing to worry about when landing in New Zealand unless you are a hardened criminal. This guide will tell you what to expect in the following sections:

  • Complete the Passenger Arrival Card
  • Arriving at the airport: declaring items
  • What happens if a risk item is found in your bags
  • What you should declare
  • Declaring used equipment.

Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in New Zealand©

Complete the Passenger Arrival Card

On your flight to New Zealand, the inflight crew will ask you to fill out the Passenger Arrival Card. This is a double-sided narrow card asking for personal details, your intentions in New Zealand, but most importantly, asking you to declare any restricted or prohibited items you are bringing into the country.

Answer the questions honestly. If you make a false declaration, you will be fined NZ$400. Also, if you’re not sure whether to declare something or not, declare it! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Get extra advice on how to fill out the Passenger Arrival Card here.

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What Should You Declare?

The restricted and prohibited goods that you must declare on your Passenger Arrival Card and on arrival in the airport are:

  • All food items down to the smallest ingredient.
  • All plants and plant products, including items made from wood.
  • Live animals. (If you’re desperate to bring a pet, see our Bringing Pets into New Zealand).
  • Animal products like shells, feathers and hides.
  • Water products like fish, shellfish, diving and fishing equipment.
  • Used equipment (see the section below).
© pxhere

Declaring Used Equipment

Used equipment is included in the list of things to declare because equipment might carry soil holding diseases and pests. MPI suggests that you “check, clean, dry” equipment before packing it. Also, pack the equipment somewhere easy to access in case it does need inspecting.

Used equipment refers to:

  • Hiking and sportswear that has been outside urban areas
  • Gaiters
  • Tents and other camping equipment
  • Camping food
  • Hunting equipment including clothes and backpacks
  • Equipment used with animals, including farm footwear, vet supplies, horse riding gear and shearing equipment
  • Gardening equipment
  • Any gear, including clothes, footwear and tools, used in any farming and forestry industry
  • Any fishing equipment
  • Diving equipment, including wetsuits.

Declare it all!

For more tips on what to pack for New Zealand, see our complete guide, What to Pack for New Zealand.

© Boris Babanov on Wikipedia

Arriving at the Airport: Declaring Items

Although it is not illegal to bring the risk items listed above into New Zealand, you have to declare them. When you go through Passport Control in a New Zealand airport, you will be asked if you have anything to declare. Be honest! If you panic, declare everything!

As you move into the Customs and Biosecurity area of the airport, after picking up your bags at Baggage Claim, you will hand over your Passenger Arrival Card and asked again if you have anything to declare.

As you move through Biosecurity, there may be detector dogs sniffing out risk goods. Your bag will likely go through an x-ray machine. Inspectors might also look in your bags.

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What Happens if a Risk Item is Found in Your Bags

If a risk item is found in your bag, you may have to surrender the item.

To keep the item, the item can be sent off for treatment by other companies. Then you can collect your item at a later date. You may have to pay a fee for this treatment. If the item is not safe, it will be destroyed.

Some items may incur a tax, which you will have to pay.

As mentioned above, if you fail to declare a risk item, you will receive an instant NZ$400 fine.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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