Our work at the National Biocontainment Laboratory

The Animal Health Laboratory will occupy the new National Biocontainment Laboratory being built at Wallaceville, Upper Hutt, Wellington.

Keeping New Zealand safe

lab technician holds a petri dish
A low-risk bacterial reference sample
used to compare to cultures from
suspect cases of disease.

New Zealand needs a high-level biocontainment laboratory so we can be prepared. Every day, we test samples from suspected cases of diseases, many of which could seriously affect New Zealand's primary sector and environment.

The lab is also important for our international trade. MPI's active surveillance and routine investigation testing lets our trading partners know that New Zealand is free from serious diseases.

What we test

The Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) identifies all cases of suspected exotic, new, and emerging diseases of all types of animals, including:

  • farm animals
  • pets
  • aquatic animals
  • wildlife.

To do this, we make sure we can do the latest tests and we develop new tests for new and emerging diseases, including animal diseases that can make humans sick.

Our people

The veterinarians, scientists, and technical staff employed at the AHL have expertise in veterinary virology, bacteriology, immunology, pathology, and molecular diagnostics. The laboratory is accredited to ISO 17025, the Recognised Laboratory Programme, and the MPI Laboratory Approval Scheme.

Now and into the future

The opening of the new laboratory in 2020 won't change the work we do at Wallaceville, but it will ensure we can work more efficiently and use more modern scientific methods.

We don't hold live animals at Wallaceville for testing or research. We don't keep live foot and mouth disease virus on the site either. This will continue to be the case when the new lab is built.

Some of our achievements

2014: New Zealand celebrated freedom from equine viral arteritis (EVA). EVA is a serious cause of abortion in horses and has significant trade implications for the horse breeding industry. Eradication of EVA was made possible by more than 20 years of work at Wallaceville, testing breeding horses and preventing further spread of the disease.


2013: The MPI laboratory at Wallaceville carried out more than 30,000 tests on a wide range of samples from farm animals to companion animals and other species. Results were used in 286 exotic disease investigation cases, surveillance work, and certifying animals as disease-free for trade.


2013: an epidemic of anaemia in Northland cattle was identified at Wallaceville as being caused by Theileria orientalis Ikeda. This led to a major disease control programme involving MPI and the beef and dairy industries. Wallaceville scientists developed new, faster and more accurate tests for the new strain. This test has now been distributed to commercial veterinary laboratories around the country to help with ongoing disease management.

Types of diseases tested

We carry out tests for known or suspected infectious diseases that would have a serious effect on New Zealand. In other words, organisms that would affect:

  • the health of animals and New Zealanders
  • the viability of New Zealand's animal-based production industries on which our economy relies
  • New Zealand's natural environment.

Small quantities of some organisms that can cause serious diseases are stored in the laboratory in case scientists need to compare them with a sample. These are called reference samples.

Very high-risk diseases, including rabies and ebola virus, are not held in the lab. In some cases scientists may test for very high-risk diseases using low-risk molecular tests, which don't need a live virus.

Keeping it local

The high-level biocontainment laboratory is critical to protect the health and well-being of New Zealand's people, animals, and environment.

While similar facilities exist in other countries, we need local facilities. If a serious disease is suspected, we need to know as soon as possible so we can deal with the problem. If we confirm we have a problem, we can isolate and treat any potential outbreak faster by having local testing. Sending samples overseas for testing would slow our ability to respond, which could have devastating consequences for New Zealand.

Having these lab facilities is about being prepared for a disaster.

Who to contact

Emergency Hotline

To report suspected exotic diseases in animals, call 0800 80 99 66.

General enquiries

Phone: 04 894 5600
Fax: 04 894 4973


Investigation and Diagnostic Centre
PO Box 40742
66 Ward Street
Upper Hutt 5018

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