Steps to importing soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay or water

If you want to import soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay or water, you need to meet strict requirements. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.

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What you need to know

An overview of importing soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay and water.

Types of soil, rock and water

This import process covers soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay and water being imported for:

  • research analysis
  • research for isolation of organisms
  • other non-research purposes.

Importing related products

Processes for importing products related to soil, rock and water are set out elsewhere on this website:

To import bulk inorganic fertilisers, see the import health standard:

To successfully import soil, rock or water you need to know:

  • what the product is being imported for
  • what country the product is coming from
  • the product's contents
  • the import health standard (IHS) requirements for your product
  • pre-departure inspection and treatment requirements (if any)
  • New Zealand Customs Service requirements
  • about using a customs broker
  • the relevant fees and charges.

More details are in Step 2 – What you need to do.

Find out about Customs Service requirements

Check with Customs to see if:

  • the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
  • a New Zealand Customs Service permit is needed.
What you need to do

Check and comply with import health standards.

Refer to the import health standard or standards

Biosecurity requirements are detailed in documents called import health standards (IHS). The IHS for soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay and water has details of what you need to do to successfully import your product. For samples imported to isolate microorganisms, you should also refer to the IHS for microorganisms.

Download the IHS for importing soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay and water [PDF, 268 KB]

Download the IHS for microorganisms [PDF, 175 KB]

How to use the IHS document

Read the IHS for soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay and water thoroughly to make sure you can comply with all the requirements.

  • Part 1 details the types of products covered by the IHS, general entry requirements for soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay and water, and required documents.
  • Part 2 breaks down entry requirements by product type and end use, including required documents and treatment.
  • Appendix 1 has IHS definitions.

Check whether your soil, rock or water needs treatment

Soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay and water may carry contaminants like weed seeds or unwanted organisms. Your product may need to be treated and inspected to make sure it is free of contaminants. Check Part 2 of the IHS to find out what you have to do.

Importing your product under equivalent measures (equivalence)

If your product doesn't meet all of the IHS requirements (for example, if it has been treated using a different method from that listed in the IHS), you can ask MPI to assess 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 treatment and processing).

To ask about equivalence, email

Products containing microorganisms

You can only import products containing microorganisms if those microorganisms don't pose a biosecurity risk.

Before applying for an import permit, check that the microorganisms in your product can be imported by:

  1. searching the Unwanted Organisms Register to make sure the microorganisms are not listed. If it is listed, you can't import the product
  2. searching the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) applications register to check if the microorganisms are already in New Zealand and to get an HSNO code. If the microorganism isn't listed, email the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for advice –
  3. checking whether the microorganism is regulated by searching the Biosecurity Organisms Register for Importing Commodities (BORIC). If they're not listed, email for advice.

For products containing microorganisms, a Manufacturers Quality Control Test Declaration needs to be submitted when applying for an import permit.

The Quality Control Test Declaration is a signed document from the goods manufacturer on official letterhead declaring that, on the basis of accredited quality control tests, the levels of microbial contaminants in the goods comply with the levels set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

More information can be found in the Guidance section of the Permit Application form.

Search the Unwanted Organisms Register

Search the HSNO application register – EPA website

Search the BORIC register

Check Customs Service requirements

Check with the New Zealand Customs Service (Customs) if:

  • you can import the product without restriction
  • the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
  • a Customs permit is needed.

Engage a customs broker, agent or freight forwarder (recommended)

A New Zealand broker, agent or freight forwarder will help you with the arrival part of the process, such as making sure you have all the required documentation, and booking inspections of your consignment. Only registered customs brokers or qualified importers can access some New Zealand Customs Service (Customs) information.

Customs brokers and freight forwarders are usually listed in New Zealand business directories under those headings. Or you can check with the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation for a list of its members.

Apply for an import permit

You'll need to apply for a permit to import, if you're importing:

  • research samples for isolation of microorganisms
  • more than 100 litres of water
  • more than 10kg of soil
  • products that have been approved by the chief technical officer for equivalence measures.

To import the above samples/products, complete the Application for Permit to Import plant-derived material, microorganisms associated with plants, soil or water.

Download the application for Permit to Import plant-derived material, microorganisms associated with plants, soil or water [DOCX, 108 KB]

For the importation of research samples for microbial propagation, you will need to include the HSNO application or approval code from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Arrange transitional storage, if needed

MPI approves transitional facilities to hold and manage imported goods that might have a biosecurity risk. These products may need to be inspected or treated at a transitional facility before they can be cleared by MPI.

You or your customs broker may need to arrange for the transfer of your goods to a transitional facility before they arrive in New Zealand.

Comply with packaging and labelling requirements

Your products must be packaged securely to prevent leakage. Each package in your consignment must be clearly labelled on the outside, with a full description of its contents.

Consider applying for a BACC in advance

If your consignment is unaccompanied, we recommend you or your agent applies for a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) before it arrives in New Zealand. A BACC can be issued at the border but if you apply while your consignment is in transit, it can speed up border clearance.

Apply for a BACC [PDF, 303 KB]

Prepare documents before your consignment arrives

You or your customs broker need to make sure you have all the necessary documents before your goods arrive in New Zealand.

Documents you may need to supply include:

  • BACC number (if pre-arranged)
  • import permit
  • treatment certificates
  • a purchase invoice
  • the bill of lading.

Comply with on-arrival inspections

An MPI inspector may check your documentation and the consignment when it arrives in New Zealand to make sure it complies with the IHS. The inspector will check that the consignment is:

  • as described
  • correctly labelled and packaged
  • free from contaminants like organic matter, diseases and pests (both products and packaging)
  • compliant with the conditions on the import permit (if applicable).

If your consignment doesn't comply on arrival

If pests or contaminants (such as algae, seeds or insects) are detected in a container or your product, the MPI inspector will explain your options.

Depending on the type of contaminant, you may choose to:

  • identify the organism and treat, if it's a restricted pest
  • have the container or consignment treated by an approved provider
  • return the product to its country of origin
  • destroy the product.

MPI-approved pest identification services [PDF, 192 KB]

Arrange treatments or testing, if needed

If your product or packaging has to be treated when it arrives in New Zealand, this must be done by an approved treatment provider.

You are liable for any cost associated with non-compliance or contamination.

Approved treatment providers [PDF, 285 KB]

Approved biosecurity treatments [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Getting your import documentation

How to know you've met MPI requirements.

Your BACC will confirm clearance

After you have completed all the relevant tasks for your product in Step 2, you'll be issued with a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC), confirming the consignment has been given a biosecurity clearance.

Who to contact

If you have any questions about importing soil, rock, clay, gravel, sand, or water, email

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