Import health standards (IHSs)

Import health standards are legal documents issued under section 24A of the Biosecurity Act 1993. These standards include the biosecurity requirements that commodities must meet before biosecurity clearance can be given and the consignment can be successfully imported into New Zealand. Learn more about how import health standards are developed.

Import health standards manage risk goods

Under the Biosecurity Act 1993, an import health standard (IHS) is required for importation into New Zealand of any biosecurity risk goods. Risk goods are any items that may constitute, harbour, or contain an organism that may cause unwanted harm to natural or physical resources, or to human health in New Zealand.

An IHS exists to reduce the biosecurity risks associated with bringing items into New Zealand, like:

  • plants and plant products
  • animals and animal products
  • food
  • biological products.

Other items that have import health standards include:

  • imported sea or shipping containers
  • vehicles
  • tyres.

Transitional and containment facilities also have import health standards.

Developing import health standards

MPI has a staged approach to developing new import health standards and when amending existing standards. The first step is to complete a risk analysis. If the analysis shows the risks can be managed adequately by conditions in a standard, the next steps are:

  1. A draft import health standard (IHS) is prepared.
  2. MPI issues the draft IHS for consultation.
  3. A provisional version of the IHS is produced, subject to requests for a review.
  4. After 10 days (or the completion of a review, if requested) the final IHS is issued.

Download a flowchart showing the IHS development process [PDF, 356 KB]

Requesting the development of an import health standard

If an import health standard doesn't exist for the commodity you want to import, you can ask MPI to develop one. MPI sets priorities for the development of new standards and it may take several years to finalise.

IHS risk analysis

An analysis of risk is the first stage in the development of import health standards.

The analysis involves the identification of pests and diseases that might be associated with an import item, the likelihood of entry and establishment in New Zealand, and the potential impacts on our economy, environment, and human health.

The decision to issue an import health standard is made by the Director-General of MPI under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Draft import health standards

MPI must consult with interested parties including any affected government departments before issuing or amending import health standards (other than minor changes). Section 23 of the Biosecurity Act 1993 and MPI's consultation policy set out our consultation requirements.

Provisional version of the import health standard

After consultation on a draft import health standard, MPI releases to submitters a provisional version of the IHS.

If you made a submission during consultation on the development of the IHS as a representative of people who have an interest in the standard (s 23(3)(b) of the Biosecurity Act), you have 10 working days to notify the Director-General that you intend to request an independent review. When making a notification you must show that you are eligible (for example, you might be an affected stakeholder) to request a review.

If you notify the Director-General you intend to request a review, you then have a further 10 working days to complete the request. Your request must:

  • identify the significant concerns you had raised with the chief technical officer about their consideration of the scientific evidence
  • explain why you think there has been insufficient regard to the scientific evidence
  • include any other scientific information that is relevant to your concern.

If no-one requests a review within 10 working days, then the provisional version of the IHS is confirmed and issued.

Independent review panel

If a request to review the provisional version of the IHS is accepted, the Director-General must appoint a panel to do the review. You can find the details for this procedure in the Biosecurity (Process for Establishing Independent Review Panel) Notice 2015.

Submitters can suggest members for the panel and review the draft terms of reference. Whoever asked for the review gets a copy of the final report — the report is also available to anyone who asks.

The Director-General must take the panel's report into consideration when making a final decision about the IHS.

Equivalence decisions and reporting

Imported goods are given biosecurity clearance by an MPI-approved inspector only if the goods and the supporting documentation meet all the requirements of the relevant IHS.

If a product doesn't meet all the IHS requirements (for example, if it has been treated using a different method from what is listed in the IHS), you can ask MPI about assessing your product under equivalent measures. This is known as 'equivalence'.

You will need to supply information to show how the risks managed by the IHS will be managed to an equivalent level (for example, by providing information about cooking times and temperatures, and other processing details). MPI will issue a biosecurity permit if your request is approved. 

If an equivalent measure is approved, MPI issues a report under section 27(3) of the Biosecurity Act 1993, showing the:

  • nature of the non-compliance of the good with the IHS
  • equivalent measure approved
  • goods given clearance in accordance with the equivalent measure
  • reasons for giving clearance.

Decisions are published quarterly.

The role of our laboratories

Our laboratories have an important role in supporting trade. They help:

  • protect New Zealand's primary industries and the environment from suspected exotic organisms
  • reassure our trading partners that New Zealand is free of certain pests and diseases.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about import health standards, email

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