What happens if you fail to declare

If you fail to declare biosecurity risk goods that you bring into New Zealand, you may be fined or go to prison.

Why you're fined for failing to declare

When you arrive in New Zealand you're required to declare all food, animal products, plants and other specific items in your possession. You make the declarations on a Passenger Arrival Card.

You're breaking the law (the Biosecurity Act 1993) if you don't declare risk goods you have in your possession.

A quarantine officer will look at the answers you gave on the card and may ask you questions to assess the biosecurity risk of those goods.

There is no excuse

You're breaking the law if you fail to declare:

  • unintentionally
  • by accident
  • because you forgot
  • because you were careless
  • because you didn't know the rules or what was in your baggage.

In all these situations you've made an erroneous or false declaration, which is an offence under section 154N(21) of the Biosecurity Act 1993.

In legal terms, it's called a strict liability offence. That means you may have broken the law even if you didn’t mean to. It’s like a speeding ticket or a parking fine.

The penalties

The penalty for a false declaration is an NZD$400 infringement fee – commonly called an instant fine. You do not get a criminal conviction.

However, if you deliberately make an incorrect or false declaration to try to conceal items, the consequences are much worse.

If you're convicted of deliberate smuggling, you could be fined up to NZD$100,000 and be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison.

How to avoid getting a fine

You can avoid the risk of making a false declaration (and getting a fine) by making sure you know what is in your bags and luggage, and the baggage of anyone under the age of 18 travelling with you.

Declare all biosecurity risk goods you have:

  • in your luggage or bags
  • in the clothes you're wearing (like in a jacket pocket).

What to do if you get an infringement notice

If you're issued an infringement notice you can:

  • pay the NZD$400 fine immediately
  • pay the NZD$400 fine within 14 days
  • request the notice be waived
  • request a defended or a non-defended hearing in court.

Pay your fine immediately or within 14 days

MPI has several payment options available, including by credit card or through internet banking.

If you do nothing

If you choose to do nothing, your infringement notice will be filed with the District Court and demand for payment will be made by the Department of Courts. You may incur court costs.

If you do not dispute your infringement notice within 14 days, you will not automatically be entitled to a hearing.

Who to contact

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



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