Overview of the importing process

New Zealand has strict controls on what's imported into the country, to protect our environment, flora, fauna, and human health. MPI must be satisfied that imported goods, animals, plant products, or food don't harbour unwanted organisms before biosecurity clearance is given.

Preventing the entry and spread of pests and diseases

The increasing volume of trade and travel is placing extra pressure on our biosecurity systems. New pests and diseases can impact human health and also damage agriculture or horticultural production, forestry, and tourism. They can also affect New Zealand's trade in international markets. MPI has extensive controls in place to protect New Zealand from biosecurity risks across a wide range of products and commodities, including:

  • plants and plant products, including timber
  • animal products and animals, including pets
  • biological products and organisms
  • food
  • vessels and aircraft containers and cargo.

MPI also places restrictions on where aircraft and seacraft can arrive in New Zealand to make sure proper inspections can take place of the craft, passengers, and cargo.

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.

The importing process

Before you start importing, you need to make sure you're allowed to import the particular product, animal, or item. You should first check out any biosecurity import rules and restrictions and also check with the New Zealand Customs Service (Customs).

If the product is allowed into the country, you'll also have to satisfy MPI that it meets our import regulations and rules and does not pose a biosecurity risk. If it's a food product, MPI will also want to make sure it meets food safety and labelling requirements.

Follow import health standards

Any items or products that could potentially contain unwanted pests or organisms are subject to an import health standard. These standards are mainly done on a country-commodity basis. The standards contain detailed information about the requirements you have to meet to successfully import your consignment and prove to MPI there is no biosecurity risk.

Food importers have to meet additional requirements

All food imported into New Zealand may only be imported if it is safe and suitable and meets New Zealand standards for consumption.

Food importers are required to register with MPI and follow the food importing standards in place.

MPI also regularly monitors imported food to ensure it is safe and suitable.

Import certificates

Certificates issued by the appropriate government agency of the exporting country are required to accompany many goods imported into New Zealand.  These certificates contain assurances about the health of the animal or plant, or regarding the safety of imported food.

To find out if you need an import certificate, check your import health standard or the Notice on importing food.

Food Notice: Importing Food [PDF, 517 KB]

Electronic certificates possible for some products and countries

Traditionally, the certificates required for import have been supplied in paper format with specific security features which change depending on the country of export.  In most cases,  MPI requires the original certificate to be presented.

However, there are moves internationally to exchange the information contained in these certificates directly between the exporting and importing governments by electronic methods.  This has many advantages in terms of ensuring authenticity of information and speed and efficiency at the border.

MPI receives electronic certificate data for 3 countries for imports of plants and plant products:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • the United States of America (USA).

If you are importing plants and plant products from Argentina, Australia, or the USA, you can reduce any delays at the border by either:

  • indicating the certificate number on your import lodgement in the Trade Single Window, or
  • attaching a PDF copy of the certificate.

This will allow MPI to process your lodgement without us having to ask for the originals. 

Note: There may be occasions when you are still required to supply the original document to MPI if there are technical issues but this should become fairly rare.

Transitional and containment facilities

All sea containers arriving in New Zealand need to be taken to a transitional facility and unpacked there. Some higher risk imports – especially plants, animals, and related products – may need to be quarantined or held in a transitional or containment facility.

Transitional facilities hold, inspect, treat, identify, or destroy and dispose of uncleared risk goods imported into New Zealand. They operate under a standard that details the minimum requirements for approval and monitoring transitional facilities functions.

Treatments must be by approved operators

MPI has responsibility to ensure any treatments applied to imported risk goods offer the best practicable level of control. MPI approves and oversees treatments and treatment providers to ensure that only competent organisations and individuals are involved with the delivery of official treatment activities.

Search for an approved treatment provider [PDF, 146 KB]

Offshore Treatment Providers

MPI does not approve offshore treatment providers. However MPI recommends that you consider using treatment providers approved by other biosecurity agencies in the following countries; Fiji, India, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The status of the treatment provider can be checked on the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Australian website.

Search for treatment providers offshore for methyl bromide treatment only

MPI website can help you meet requirements

To help you understand and comply with MPI requirements and import health standards, we've developed step-by-step guides on this website, so you can see what's involved and refer to all the related documents in one place.

Who to contact

If you have questions about importing, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: