Introduction to biosecurity legislation

MPI works within a robust legislative framework to lead New Zealand's biosecurity system. Learn more about the laws and regulations supporting biosecurity in New Zealand.

Purpose of the biosecurity system

The biosecurity system prevents or manages risks from harmful organisms, like pests and diseases. The biosecurity system helps protect New Zealand's economy, environment, human health, and a range of social and cultural values. It does this by:

  • stopping pests and diseases before they arrive
  • dealing with any if they do enter the country.

Agencies involved

MPI is the lead agency for biosecurity. We administer the Biosecurity Act 1993 and advise the Minister for Biosecurity on biosecurity issues. We provide inspectors at the border who manage risks from people, planes, vessels (like ships) and goods coming into the country. We also maintain a system for rapidly responding to detections of new, harmful pests and diseases.

Other groups also play a role in our biosecurity system:

  • other government departments may become involved when a pest or disease affects their responsibilities
  • regional councils play a major part in pest management within their regions
  • industry organisations will sometimes take the lead in managing harmful pests or diseases that affect their members
  • iwi or community groups may work with MPI to manage or eradicate harmful organisms that are of concern to them
  • landowners and occupiers who have a responsibility to manage pests on their properties.

Biosecurity Act 1993

The Biosecurity Act provides the legal framework for MPI and others to help keep harmful organisms out of New Zealand. And the framework for how we respond, and manage them, if any do make it into the country. It covers:

  • pre-border risk management and standard setting
  • border management
  • readiness and response
  • long term pest management.

Biosecurity Act overhaul

The Minister of Biosecurity announced an overhaul of the Act in July 2019. We’re going to update it to ensure it remains fit for purpose in the future.

Pre-border risk management

MPI works to keep risks offshore before they get to New Zealand by imposing standards for countries wishing to export to us. The act allows us to keep New Zealand as secure as possible while maintaining our international trade.

It allows us to, for example:

  • do risk assessments on existing and emerging biosecurity risks
  • impose import health standards to cover certain types of items entering New Zealand that align with international standards under the World Trade Organization
  • share expertise as part of international trade agreements and bilateral arrangements.

Border management

The act helps MPI effectively manage the risks that come with:

  • importing goods, which may have harmful organisms in or on them
  • any vessels (like planes or ships) landing in New Zealand or entering our waters.

It does this by:

  • requiring that all goods coming into New Zealand get biosecurity clearance before being allowed unrestricted access to the country – giving us a range of powers and duties to manage any risks from incoming vessels, people, and goods.

Readiness and response

The act gives agencies, including MPI, a wide range of powers to deal with harmful organisms. During readiness and response activities, those powers may allow us to:

  • enter property
  • impose movement controls
  • destroy infected property
  • give directions (for example, to destroy risk goods).

It places restrictions and reporting obligations on the spread of harmful organisms and reporting obligations for, and restrictions on, spreading harmful organisms.

The act is designed to help government and industry work together to make decisions about preparing for harmful organisms and any necessary responses – as well as setting out how these activities should be paid for. These aims are formalised in the Government industry agreement for biosecurity readiness and response (GIA).

Long-term pest management

If an organism becomes established in New Zealand (moves beyond a stage where we can eradicate it), the act allows for national and regional pest management plans. Industry organisations have used national pest management plans to manage organisms that damage their sectors, while regional councils use regional pest management plans to do their biosecurity work.

The act also provides for pathway management plans, which can be used to control the many different ways pests or diseases may enter New Zealand.

Find out more

Compensation under the Biosecurity Act

We compensate people under the Biosecurity Act 1993 for a number of reasons – including to encourage early reporting of risk organisms (those that carry or may be infected with pests and diseases).

Other legislation

MPI plays a part in administering requirements in other laws.

The National Animal Identification and Tracing Act 2012 (NAIT)

NAIT established an animal identification and tracing system for a number of reasons, which included improving biosecurity management. The act applies to cattle and deer.

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act is designed to protect the health and safety of New Zealand's people, communities and broader environment. It does this by managing the effects of hazardous substances and new organisms.

The act is administered by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) who are responsible for assessing and approving new organisms before they can be allowed into New Zealand. MPI is responsible for enforcing the law in New Zealand.

If a new organism is imported accidentally or as part of other imported goods, it is dealt with by MPI under the Biosecurity Act.

Health Act 1956

The Health Act gives powers to officials to deal with infectious and notifiable diseases.

Wild Animal Control Act 1977

The Wild Animal Control Act applies to all deer, chamois, thar (tahr), wild goats and wild pigs. It restricts activities like capturing or liberating wild animals and gives officials powers to control wild animals covered by the Act – like the power to hunt or kill a wild animal.

Who to contact

If you have questions about biosecurity, email

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