Steps to importing nursery stock
If you want to import nursery stock, you need to meet various biosecurity and phytosanitary requirements. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.
Follow the steps
Step 1: What you need to know
An overview of importing nursery stock from start to finish.
What nursery stock includes
The types of nursery stock included in this import process are:
- whole plants
- tissue-cultured plants
- cuttings, scions, bud wood, marcots, offshoots
- root divisions
- bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes.
To import nursery stock successfully you need to know about:
- your plant species and if it has been approved for import from the country of origin
- the import health standard (IHS) for your plant species
- complying with the requirements of the IHS
- arranging treatments and post-entry quarantine, if needed
- applying for an MPI import permit
- product prohibitions and restrictions
- New Zealand Customs Service tariffs and permits
- using a customs broker
- relevant fees and charges.
Importing related products
Processes for importing products related to nursery stock are provided elsewhere on this website. Refer to:
- seeds for sowing
- biological products and organisms
- forest products like wood products and packaging.
Export goods returning to New Zealand
All exporters are legally obliged to notify MPI if their export goods are being returned to New Zealand – for example, if a consignment has been rejected by an importing country.
Exporters can either use the export non-conformance report to alert MPI about any problems, or use their own form – so long as the notification contains all of the necessary information.
Step 2: What you need to do
The tasks you need to complete.
Check whether your plant species can be imported
MPI's Plant Biosecurity Index (PBI) database lists all nursery stock species that can be imported. You can search the database to see if your plant species is listed and find out its import classification. You'll need to know your plant's scientific name (genus and species) to complete a search.
Interpreting the search results
The PBI search results state whether a species can be imported as nursery stock, and the type of entry conditions for that species.
Column 1 lists scientific names and Column 3 lists the import specifications for nursery stock.
Only species listed with an import specification of 'L2 (Basic)', L1, L2, or L3 can be imported – but you should also check whether there are conditions or restrictions.
If column 3 reads 'requires assessment', the 2 options for assessing your plant species are:
- checking the PBI to see whether you can instead import it as seeds for sowing
- asking MPI about having a biosecurity assessment of the nursery stock. Email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the PBI lists your plant species as 'entry prohibited', you can't import it.
If column 3 says 'not listed', check to see if it is listed by another name.
If your nursery stock is a new species that isn't on the PBI list, you can apply to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for approval to import the new species. The species will still need to be assessed for biosecurity risks by MPI, to determine an import specification.
Check other agencies' import restrictions
Check with the New Zealand Customs Service whether:
- you can import the product without restriction
- the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
- a NZ Customs permit is needed.
Visit the NZ Customs website to:
Some plant products are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and cannot be transported between countries, or can only be imported with a permit. Check whether your nursery stock is a protected species.
Consider using a customs broker
A customs broker will help you get import entry clearance. Some services provided by NZ Customs can only be accessed by registered customs brokers.
Many freight and transport companies employ their own brokers but if you need help finding one, contact the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation.
Comply with import health standard (IHS) requirements
Biosecurity requirements are detailed in documents called import health standards. The import health standard (IHS) Importation of nursery stock will tell you what you need to do to successfully import it.
Download the IHS for importation of nursery stock [PDF, 3.9 MB]
How to use the IHS document
Read the IHS for your plant species thoroughly to make sure you can comply with all of the requirements.
- Section 1 includes IHS definitions, general information, and CITES and equivalence information.
- Section 2 has information about inspection at the border, entry conditions, post-entry quarantine, treatments and testing, biosecurity clearance, and conditions (including New Zealand nursery stock returning from overseas).
- Section 3 includes the schedule of special entry conditions for certain species (including PEQ requirements).
All nursery stock must meet the:
- basic conditions in section 2 and
- any special conditions for the species in section 3.
If you're importing whole plants, cuttings, or dormant bulbs, make sure you also check the pesticide treatments and pest-specific measures (IHS sections 22.214.171.124 to 126.96.36.199).
If you're importing tissue culture, make sure you also check the specific entry conditions for tissue culture (IHS section 2.2.2).
Ask MPI if you're not sure
- If you don't understand the IHS conditions or PBI database results, email email@example.com.
Request assessment under equivalent measures
If your product won't meet all of 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'll 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 processing details).
You'll need to provide MPI with supporting information, as listed in each IHS. MPI will issue a biosecurity permit if your request is approved. Fees apply.
To ask about equivalence, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact MPI about your product
Contact MPI plant imports team to discuss the requirements (including post-entry quarantine) for the product you intend to import.
- email email@example.com
Comply with phytosanitary requirements
All imported nursery stock requires a phytosanitary certificate, which is issued in the exporting country. You need to meet all of the requirements listed (including additional declarations) before your consignment leaves.
To apply for a certificate you or your export supplier should contact the relevant National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) in the country of export. You can find the contact details on the International Plants Protection Convention (IPPC) website.
A phytosanitary certificate is issued once the contact point at the NPPO is satisfied that the requirements of the IHS have been met, along with any additional declarations required.
The original phytosanitary certificate must be included with your consignment.
Source from an accredited facility, if available
You may be able to source your nursery stock from an MPI-accredited offshore facility that specialises in the quarantine and testing of some plant species. Nursery stock produced at the facility can generally be imported with a lower level of post-entry quarantine (PEQ) requirements. This may mean, for example, a shorter quarantine period with fewer tests.
Check to see if there is an MPI-approved facility that you can source your nursery stock from.
The requirements that operators have to meet are set out in the standard for accredited operators of off-shore quarantine facilities.
Arrange pre-departure inspection and treatments, if required
Treatments for nursery stock differ between countries. For some species, the treatments may include inspections during their growing season and diagnostic testing for pests or disease.
Phytosanitary requirements for pre-departure treatments for your nursery stock species are in the IHS. If you need to arrange inspections or treatment, contact your export agent or the NPPO in the country of export to find out about approved inspection and treatment providers.
Obtain a treatment certificate
Request the treatment certificate from your export agent or treatment supplier. The invoice or batch information should match the treatment certificate details.
Book space in a post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facility, if required
Check the IHS to find out whether your nursery stock needs to be held at a PEQ facility before it is released to you. PEQ requirements are listed for your plant species in Section 3 of the IHS.
PEQ may be needed so your nursery stock can be actively grown in controlled conditions. During quarantine your nursery stock will be inspected, tested, and treated for the presence of any potential pests or diseases. Fees apply. Contact an MPI-approved facility to make a booking.
- Find details for all MPI-approved PEQ facilities
- Check the process for booking space in MPI's PEQ facility
Apply for an import permit
You'll need to apply for an import permit for your nursery stock. The type of import permit required depends on the level of PEQ needed for the plant species. Most high-value crops require a high level of post-entry quarantine testing.
Check the import permit requirements for your plant species in the IHS. You'll need either a nursery stock import permit, or a high-value crops import permit.
Download the permit application to import nursery stock [PDF, 326 KB] [DOCX, 116 KB]
word version [DOCX, 116 KB]
An import permit is not required for tissue culture unless the schedule of special conditions in the IHS says the culture requires PEQ.
Arrange transitional storage, if required
MPI approves transitional facilities to hold and manage imported goods that might have a biosecurity risk. These goods may need to be inspected or treated at the transitional facility before they can be cleared by MPI.
All sea containers arriving in New Zealand need to be taken to a transitional facility and unpacked there.
You or your customs broker need to arrange for your container to be transferred to a transitional facility, before your goods arrive in New Zealand.
All treatments at a transitional facility must be done by an approved treatment provider. You are liable for any costs associated with non-compliance or contamination.
Search for an approved treatment provider [PDF, 188 KB] [PDF, 188 KB]
Check labelling and packaging requirements
Correct packaging and labelling of your nursery stock and its packaging will help ensure that your consignment isn't damaged in transit, and can be quickly identified and processed by border clearance when it arrives in New Zealand.
Comply with labelling requirements
Before you pack your consignment, make sure you label:
- each type of plant species in the consignment with its scientific name (genus and species)
- each unit or line of nursery stock
- the outside of the box with the wording 'Contains live plant material'
- the MPI account to be charged for the inspection, and your contact details if the consignment is arriving by mail (not sea or air freight).
Insert a copy of the phytosanitary certificate and import permit (if required) in a green envelope, addressed to 'MPI doc'. Attach the envelope securely to the outside of the package so it can be easily seen.
Comply with packaging requirements
Inner and outer packaging should be in a secure, rigid container such as a robust box, crate, or chilly bin.
Note when packing tissue culture to:
- put it in the vessel in which it was grown
- use a tissue culture vessel that is pest-proof and transparent
- ensure that the tissue culture medium is free from fungicides or antibiotics.
Packaging material should be inert (non-living) or synthetic. If you use packaging such as wood crates or peat, you'll need to comply with extra requirements or restrictions to ensure there are no hidden pests or diseases. Refer to the import requirements for importing:
Apply for a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) in advance
You must apply for a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) if you want to import nursery stock. A BACC can be issued at the border but if you apply while your consignment is in transit, it can speed up border clearance.
If you're using a customs broker, provide them with copy of the phytosanitary certificate, import permit to import, and tracking documentation, and advise them to apply for a BACC.
Apply for a BACC (cover sheet) [PDF, 303 KB]
Submit all required documentation
You or your customs broker need to make sure that all of the necessary documentation is submitted to NZ Customs or MPI within 48 hours of your consignment arriving in New Zealand. A copy of the phytosanitary certificate must be included. Other documentation may include:
- treatment certificates
- a purchase invoice
- the bill of lading or air waybill.
Comply with on-arrival inspections
Your documentation will be checked and an MPI inspector may examine the consignment when it arrives in New Zealand to make sure it complies with the IHS. Checks include that the:
- consignment is as described in the documentation
- correct labelling is used, if required
- consignment and packaging is free of contaminants (detritus, soil, disease, and pests).
The MPI quarantine inspector may issue a BACC requiring:
- documentation to be corrected
- the consignment to be treated
- the consignment to be moved to a transition facility, to be held for inspection
- the consignment to be moved to a PEQ facility, for quarantine.
More information about the inspection process and maximum allowed levels of pest or weed contamination is provided in the IHS section 'Inspection on arrival'.
If your consignment doesn't comply on arrival
If contamination such as live organisms is found in a container or your nursery stock, an MPI inspector will tell you your options for the consignment. Depending on the type of pest or disease found, you may:
- treat your product (for example, using insecticides/miticides)
- identify the organism (and treat it if it's a restricted pest)
- ship the product to another destination country
- destroy the product.
All treatments have to be done at a transitional facility by an approved treatment provider. You are liable for any costs associated with non-compliance or contamination.
Search for an approved treatment provider [PDF, 188 KB]
Arrange to move nursery stock to the post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facility
MPI will issue an updated BACC authorising transfer of your nursery stock to PEQ, if required. The nursery stock may only be transported to PEQ when it has been authorised by an MPI inspector on a BACC.
For nursery stock imported with a passenger, the plant material may only be transported to the PEQ facility by:
- the importer (the contact person listed on the import permit, or a person with a letter of authorisation from the contact person)
- the operator of the PEQ facility (the operator of the facility listed on the import permit, or a person with a letter of authorisation from the operator)
- a 'track and trace' parcel courier.
Step 3: Getting your import documentation
How you know you've met MPI requirements.
To obtain biosecurity clearance, all entry conditions listed in the IHS for your plant species must be met.
Your nursery stock will be cleared when an MPI inspector is satisfied that all requirements have been met, including that:
- the documentation is compliant
- all required treatments have been applied
- the nursery stock is not infected or showing signs of infection with a new or unwanted organism
- the plants that were actively grown in the PEQ facility have been inspected
- plants tested are found to be free of specified organisms.
The importer will be given the option to reship or destroy consignments that cannot be given biosecurity clearance.
Importers are among the most important people in defending against potential biosecurity dangers.
New pests and diseases can not only impact on human health but also damage agricultural or horticultural production, forestry, and tourism, and affect trade in international markets.
If you notice an organism not normally seen in New Zealand, contact MPI as soon as possible on 0800 80 99 66.
Who to contact
If you have questions about importing nursery stock, email firstname.lastname@example.org.