What we do at the Plant Health and Environment Laboratory

The Plant Health and Environment Laboratory identifies plant pests and diseases. We help protect New Zealand’s primary industries and environment from suspected exotic organisms and reassure our trading partners that New Zealand is free of certain pests and diseases.

What we do at the Plant Health and Environment Laboratory

The Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (PHEL) identifies pests and diseases that affect plants and the environment – bacteria, fungi, insects, mites, nematodes, phytoplasmas, viroids, viruses, and unwanted invasive plants.

We use a range of tests to identify pests and diseases. As experts in our field, we also play an important role advising government, industry and individuals on a wide range of technical matters.

Video – Science at work: protecting plant health (6.15)

Video – See the team at work (5.05)

Testing for exotic and emerging diseases

Scientist analysing real-time PCR data on a monitor next to PCR machine 
We use a range of technology (such as PCR) to identify pests and diseases

We test samples that are sent to us with suspected exotic pests or diseases (such as bacterial canker in kiwifruit).

When new pests and diseases are found in New Zealand we provide diagnostic services for MPI, such as confirming the identity of the pest or disease, and providing advice for MPI’s response work.


MPI collects samples throughout New Zealand and we test these to make sure we don’t have exotic pests and diseases such as fruit flies. We also provide scientific advice to support the operation of these surveillance programmes. Surveillance programs help protect our primary industries and environment and reassure our trading partners that New Zealand doesn’t have certain diseases.

Surveillance programmes

Video – Working to Protect New Zealand Apiculture (5.22)

Import and export testing

Our lab tests samples collected by MPI officers during border inspections. We also test plants and plant products being imported or exported to make sure they are free of certain diseases.

Requirements for importing and exporting plants and plant material:

Plant Pest Information Network

The Plant Pest Information Network (PPIN) is a national database for plant pests that is kept up-to-date by the PHEL.

International partnerships and activities

Our staff work with overseas organisations researching pests and diseases, developing and improving tests, and providing scientific and technical advice.

PHEL has representatives in the:

Our facilities

We work at 2 sites (Auckland and Christchurch) with highly secure facilities – including a quarantine glasshouse, tissue culture facility and containment laboratories. These allow us to safely test for pests and diseases that would have a serious effect if they were released into the New Zealand environment. Our quarantine facilities are available for imported plants and seeds that need post-entry quarantine (PEQ).

Who to contact

If you have questions about our work:

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