Why we want to keep pests and diseases out of NZ

New Zealand maintains a list of almost 15,000 unwanted plant, animal and marine pests and diseases. Learn why we want to keep them out and how we do it.

The risks

Unwanted pests and diseases (organisms) can damage New Zealand's economy, environment and way of life.


They can weaken earning potential and introduce new costs by:

  • reducing the health and productivity of commercial animals or plants
  • limiting New Zealand's access to export markets
  • degrading wilderness areas so they're less attractive to tourists
  • requiring costly control programmes.


They can endanger native species and upset delicate ecosystems by:

  • competing for food and water
  • feeding on native plants or animals
  • causing outbreaks of disease
  • clogging waterways or causing land erosion.

Way of life

They can change things New Zealanders take for granted by:

  • stopping us from moving freely around the country (travel restrictions)
  • destroying wilderness areas
  • spoiling our waterways
  • reducing animal, plant and fishing stocks.

Pests can also attack humans or infest homes, while some diseases can transfer to people.

Types of pests and diseases

Biosecurity threats come in many forms:

  • Plants can overrun crops, native forests, waterways and marine environments.
  • Bugs and parasites can attack people, animals or plants, and spread disease.
  • Larger animals can feed on native species and spread disease. They can also severely damage and modify soils, landscapes and seascapes.
  • Saltwater invaders can interfere with wild species.
  • Pathogens make people, plants or animals sick, or can kill them.

Notifiable organisms

Some organisms must be notified to MPI if they're spotted in New Zealand. These include serious pests and diseases like foot-and-mouth disease, the rabies virus, fruit fly and disease-carrying mosquitoes.

If a notifiable organism established in New Zealand, it could severely affect our primary production or trade and market access.

If you spot a notifiable organism, you have a legal obligation under section 44 of the Biosecurity Act 1993 to tell MPI. Call the pests-and-diseases hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

The Biosecurity (Notifiable Organisms) Order 2016 lists notifiable organisms. New additions can be made by the Governor-General and MPI periodically reviews the list to ensure it is up-to-date.

Protecting New Zealand

New Zealand's biosecurity system has 3 interlocking layers of protection.

1. Pre-border (before cargo departs for New Zealand)

Regulations and offshore inspections help minimise the risk of unwanted arrivals.

  • Some items are banned from coming to New Zealand.
  • Others must be treated before coming here.
  • MPI inspects overseas loading facilities and some cargo before it's shipped.

2. At New Zealand's border

New Zealand's airports, seaports and transitional facilities are closely monitored.


  • Passengers fill out biosecurity declaration cards.
  • Detector dogs are used to identify risk goods on people and in luggage.
  • High-risk or suspicious items are x-rayed.


  • Accredited persons check cargo at transitional facilities.
  • Suspect containers or packages are treated for pests.

3. Post-border (within New Zealand)

We're always watching for new pests or diseases and preparing to handle an outbreak.

  • New Zealanders report more than 10,000 suspected pests and diseases every year.
  • Of these, about 750 lead to a formal investigation.
  • Every commercially slaughtered animal is inspected for disease.
  • 13 surveillance programmes watch for specific risks.
  • A network of labs provide world-class diagnostic testing.

If there's an emergency outbreak of pests or diseases, 150 organisations and 55,000 people are ready to respond through the National Biosecurity Capability Network.

Who to contact

If you have questions about information on this page, email info@mpi.govt.nz.

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