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New Zealand is well known for its diverse flora and fauna and abundance of natural beauty. To maintain this environment, the government takes extensive steps to reduce the likelihood of harmful pests and diseases from overseas that can disrupt our delicate ecosystem. This means that strict biosecurity regulations revolve around how your business imports goods. If you fail to comply with these regulations, you could receive hefty fines or other legal penalties. This article will explain what biosecurity regulations you should be aware of when importing products for your business. 

Biosecurity in New Zealand

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) regulates what you can and cannot import into New Zealand based on biosecurity concerns. They take steps to develop regulations that avert unwanted pests and diseases from entering the country to prevent damage to:

  • New Zealand’s ecosystem;
  • human health;
  • agriculture; and
  • New Zealand’s trade in international markets.

MPI publishes these regulations with Import Health Standards (IHSs). Any item or product that could potentially bring harmful pests or disease to the country is subject to one of these standards. These standards cover various products, ranging from alligator meat to farming equipment. If the product that you want to import does not have a corresponding standard, in most cases, that is because it is prohibited from entering the country. These standards include those covering:

  • animals and animal by-products;
  • plants and plant by-products;
  • food;
  • biological products and organisms; and
  • shipping containers and equipment.

Note: If you do not satisfy your product’s corresponding standard, you cannot import it. If your product gets to the border and it does not meet the appropriate standard, customs authorities could destroy or send it back to its origin country at your expense.

Biosecurity Standards

The regulation process you need to follow will depend on the specific product you want to import. You can find the relevant Import Health Standards on MPI’s website. The standard will detail what kind of certificates you may need to get and any product treatment or cleaning processes that must occur before entering the country. 

Below are some brief descriptions of what you can expect when importing certain products.

Animal Products

Some animals are not allowed in New Zealand because they are dangerous or a protected species. Products such as endangered turtle eggs are heavily regulated for this reason. Animal products such as meat or pelts also need to meet specific requirements. These products will likely have particular storage and preservation requirements, so make sure you understand these.

Plant Products

There are two classifications for imported plant materials. These are:

  • propagable (reproductive material, such as seeds); and
  • non-propagable (non-reproductive material, such as wood).

The kind of Import Health Standards your business must follow will depend on this distinction. There will be strict classification and storage requirements to avoid unwanted spread, especially with propagable plant matter.


The food products that your business can import into the country can change regularly, as the Ministry of Primary Industries imposes product recalls and warnings. If you want to import any kind of food known to cause illness, such as raw milk products or peanuts, you need to meet additional food safety clearance requirements.

Biological Products

You can import biological products or organisms into the country for laboratory purposes and environmental use, among other things. You will need to identify these products’ risk status and comply with any extra standards, such as those around veterinary medicines.

Containers and Equipment

Although these products may not be a risk themselves, they may have the potential to come into contact with biohazardous items in storage. They must also meet their relevant standards.

For example, any used vehicles that you want to import will go through a clearance process at the border. Security will check for any soil or exotic material on these vehicles, and deal with it accordingly.

Complying With Biosecurity Law

If you want to import any of these products, you have to apply for a permit and prove to the Ministry of Primary Industries that it does not pose a biosecurity risk before its arrival. Otherwise, you run the risk of customs destroying it or sending it back. If you import products with a combined total of over $1000, you will need to register as a commercial importer.

Many goods will require an import certificate, which your IHS will outline. The IHS system is changing, and many processes are becoming electronic, so make sure you understand how to apply for your relevant certificate. 

For example, if you want to import meat products from Australia, you can only use electronic certificates.

There may also be other importing requirements from other agencies like NZ Customs or the NZ Transport Agency, so make sure you know these.

Key Takeaways

Any products that could be a potential threat to NZ’s biosecurity are subject to strict regulations. The exact nature of these regulations will depend on the kind of product you want to import, so make sure to do your research to comply with any requirements. If you would like more information or guidance about your business’s biosecurity regulations, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does biosecurity mean?

Biosecurity, in this case, refers to the processes and frameworks that the New Zealand government takes to protect its health and ecosystem against harmful pests or diseases from overseas.

Are there biosecurity rules for importing vehicles or equipment?

If your vehicle or equipment poses a potential biosecurity risk, you will need to comply with its relevant Import Health Standards. This applies to things like used vehicles or farming equipment.

Why is biosecurity so important?

Biosecurity is important because it prevents harmful pests or diseases from entering the country if effective measures are at the border. A foreign disease or pest could destroy New Zealand crops, or harm the population’s health.

What should I do if I want to import meat or honey into New Zealand?

If you want to import any kind of animal or animal product into NZ, there are strict biosecurity rules you will need to follow. For things like meat or honey, you may need to follow certain storage or treatment requirements to comply with their relevant import health standard.

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