Steps to importing research samples (excluding animal samples)

If you want to import research samples, you need to follow biosecurity rules set out in the import health standard (IHS).  There are special procedures to assess and minimise any biosecurity risks. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.

Follow the steps 

Expand All
Step 1: What you need to know

An overview of importing research samples (excluding animal samples) from start to finish.

Types of research samples 

This import process is for a wide variety of research samples, but excludes samples derived from animals. For the IHS, the research samples fall into three categories:

  • laboratory specimens
  • herbarium specimens
  • trade samples.

Laboratory specimens include, but are not limited to:

  • samples derived from plants or plant samples, in fresh or dried forms (for example, cells, tissue cultures, seeds, fruits, vegetables, cuttings, bulbs, flowers, tubers, foliage, wood, pulp, timber)
  • material that may contain viable microorganisms (for example, diseased plant materials, filters, test kits containing viable microorganisms: diagnostic kits, biological indicators, research kits, and controls and calibrators)
  • organic matter (excluding animal matter)
  • inorganic matter
  • soil
  • water.

Note, processed or preserved laboratory specimens without viable organisms (for example, plant material preserved in formalin, microscopic slides, gamma radiated soil) are not considered "risk goods" and do not need to comply with the requirements of the research samples IHS.

Note, research samples derived from humans are not subject to this IHS and are eligible for biosecurity clearance (unless they trigger one of the other categories, for example, contain microorganisms).

Herbarium specimens are processed (for example, dried, mounted, or preserved) samples from 4 kingdoms (Plantae, Mycenae, Protista, and Cyanobacteria).

Trade samples are portions or pieces of a good imported for sensory evaluation, assessment, and testing for future trade. You can import trade samples of the following commodities under the IHS:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • seeds and grains
  • coco peat (coir pith, coir peat).

What you can do with research samples (excluding animal samples)

Research samples can be imported for the purposes of testing, analysis, evaluation, or teaching which may involve propagation of organisms.

As part of your permit application, you may need to provide further information about samples and the type of research.

To successfully import research samples (excluding animal samples) you need to know about:

  • what the research samples you want to import are
  • the import health standard (IHS) requirements for your samples
  • applying for a permit at least 6 weeks before your samples arrive in New Zealand
  • labelling and packaging requirements
  • having an approved transitional or containment facility that your samples need to be directed to
  • the New Zealand Pest Register
  • obtaining Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act approvals from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for any new or genetically modified organisms (GMO), if applicable
  • obtaining a S52/53 permission under the Biosecurity act for any unwanted organism, if applicable
  • the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), if applicable
  • requirements set by other government agencies like the New Zealand Customs Service (NZ Customs)
  • meeting any post-arrival quarantine requirements specified in the IHS, permit, or other relevant approvals (for example, HSNO Act approval) 
  • fees and charges.

HSNO (Hazardous Substances and New Organisms) Act approvals

Official New Zealand Pest Register (ONZPR)

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

Find out about the entry process for imported items on the NZ Customs website

Step 2: What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Identify what you are importing

Before you know whether you can import your research samples, you need to identify its ingredients or composition. If it also contains animal products or therapeutic ingredients, you will need to follow different processes to get approval to import.

Browse all importing categories

Comply with IHS requirements

The IHS for research samples (excluding animal samples) will tell you what you need to do to import your research samples into New Zealand. Read it thoroughly to make sure you can comply with all of the requirements.

In some cases, the specific import requirements for each individual commodity has not been set out in the IHS because of the wide range of materials that can be imported for research. Therefore, applications to import research samples are assessed on a case-by-case basis and at the time of permit issuance.

Download the IHS for research samples (excluding animal samples) [PDF, 310 KB]

Importation of the below samples are covered under a different IHS:

Find the IHS for other samples

Apply for a permit

Research IHS requires research samples (except trade samples) to be imported under a valid permit in order to assess and specify any special conditions considered necessary to meet the import requirements of the IHS for each sample. 

Apply for your permit at least 6 weeks before your samples arrive in New Zealand.

A permit will specify:

  • whether the research samples are eligible for biosecurity clearance on arrival
  • whether the research samples should be directed to a transitional facility or containment facility on arrival, the standards that facility must comply with, and physical containment level, where applicable
  • any special conditions necessary to show the requirements of this IHS are met
  • any special conditions that effectively manage the biosecurity risk.

Use this application form:

Application for permit to import plant derived material, microorganisms associated with plants, soil or water [DOCX, 108 KB]

Comply with CITES

Specimens of wild animals and plants must comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Visit the CITES website

Check the HSNO Act status of the viable organisms in the EPA website

For research samples that are, or contain, viable organisms, you need to check the HSNO Act (new or not new) status of the organism.

For research samples that are, or contain, organisms that have been determined to be present in New Zealand (not new organism) HSNO Act approval is not required.

Databases of organisms present in New Zealand

For research samples that are, or contain, new organisms a HSNO Act approval is required. You may use the existing HSNO Act approvals or apply for a new HSNO Act approval as specified in the EPA’s website.

New organisms that have EPA approval codes that begin with NOC or GMC will need to be directed into a transitional or containment facility.

Use the HSNO Application Register search – EPA website

Applying for a HSNO Act approval – EPA website

If you are not sure about the HSNO Act status of an organism, contact the EPA:

Check the quarantine status of the viable organisms in the official NZ pest register

For research samples that are, or contain, viable organisms, you need to check the quarantine status of the organisms in the official NZ pest register.

The quarantine status for each species is indicated as regulated or non-regulated or unwanted.

Search the official NZ pest register

For research samples that are, or contain, viable unwanted organisms, you must:

  • apply for a MPI Chief Technical Officer (CTO) approval to import under section 52 and 53 of the Biosecurity Act 1993
  • meet other requirements under the research samples (excluding animal samples) IHS.

Download the unwanted organism permission – application form [DOC, 297 KB]                   

Arranging transitional or containment facilities for research samples

The majority of imported research samples are not eligible for biosecurity clearance and must be directed to an appropriate transitional or containment facility where they can be securely held. This requirement will be set during the import permit process and will be based on the type of sample that is being imported and the purpose of the research.

In this case, research samples can only be opened in a transitional or containment facility that meets one of the following standards as specified in the import permit:

Preparing documentation

The documentation that must accompany your research samples to New Zealand and be available for inspection include copies of the:

  • import permit, if required
  • any relevant approvals (for example, HSNO Approval, S52/53 Permission), if required.

Transporting your samples

To transport your research sample to New Zealand your carrier must comply with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations. In particular, the consignment should be clearly labelled and able to be identified with the item listed on the permit or relevant approvals.

On arrival

Your documents will be inspected by a biosecurity officer when they arrive in New Zealand.

For research samples that do not pose biosecurity risk to New Zealand (for example, those containing non-regulated organisms), samples may receive biosecurity clearance.

If your research samples are not given biosecurity clearance, they will be moved to a transitional or containment facility where they can be securely held. On-arrival inspection of these samples is prohibited as they may harbour (intentionally or unintentionally) pests and diseases. Opening their secure packaging on arrival, in order to conduct an inspection, will increase the risk of spreading the quarantine pests associated with them.

Step 3: Getting your import documentation

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

Research samples may be eligible for biosecurity clearance or may be directed to an appropriate transitional or containment facility based on the type of sample that is being imported and the purpose of the research.

Your research samples may receive biosecurity clearance if:

  • MPI is satisfied that the relevant clearance requirements set out in the research sample IHS have been met
  • the required documentation is complete.

Your research samples will be directed to the appropriate facility when you have:

  • completed all of the steps
  • had your documentation inspected and a direction given by an MPI inspector to a transitional or containment facility.

Post arrival

All research samples are required to be imported into a transitional or containment facility that meets the appropriate standard that mitigate risk associated with the risk goods.

Who to contact

If you have questions about importing research samples (excluding animal samples), email plantimports@mpi.govt.nz

For any questions about importing research samples of animal origin, email animalimports@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: