Know what to do if you want to import seeds or plants into Aotearoa New Zealand, and what to do if they are not allowed into the country.
New Zealand has strict laws to protect our plants and animals from introduced species. We, the EPA, approve new species and organisms such as seeds and plants that are imported into New Zealand. We cannot approve prohibited organisms.
Buying seeds and plants online
- Always buy seeds and plant from retailers and websites you know and trust. If you are in any doubt about the seller or the website, don’t buy it.
- Many seed and plant varieties ordered from overseas are also available from local companies that follow our strict rules.
- Imported seeds must be on the Plants Biosecurity Index, in clean and dry packaging, and labelled with their scientific name. If they are not, they will be detained at the border.
- Watch out for scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Find out if you can import seeds and plants
If you are importing or bringing plants, seeds, bulbs, cuttings, hybrids, or any plant species into New Zealand, you must check they:
- are listed on the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Plant Biosecurity Index
- have been determined as not new by the EPA.
They could be detained at the border if they are not:
- on the Plant Biosecurity Index or HSNO application register
- correctly labelled with their scientific name.
If we have determined the seeds or plants are not new, and they are also listed on the MPI Plant Biosecurity Index under basic import requirements, then you can bring them into the country without approval.
These rules apply to everyone, including:
- for personal use
- for commercial use
- receiving them as a gift
- buying them online.
Check if your seeds or plants are listed on MPI’s Plants Biosecurity Index
MPI’s Biosecurity Index is a database of nearly 30,000 approved plant species. You will need to know your plant’s scientific name to search.
If your seeds or plants are listed in the database, check the right-hand column to see what the specifications are for import. This will tell you whether you can import them or not.
Find out more about importing seeds and plants, including instructions for searching the Plants Biosecurity Index, and what the search results mean.
You will still need to meet New Zealand's biosecurity requirements to import plants.
You can’t find an entry on MPI’s Plants Biosecurity Index
The seeds or plants may be listed under another scientific name
Check to see if your seeds or plants are known by another name (or by searching the Global Biodiversity Information Facility).
Provide the Ministry of Primary Industries with evidence that the seeds or plants you are looking to import are listed on the Plants Biosecurity Index under another scientific name.
You can contact the Ministry for Primary Industries to discuss this. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
They may be listed on the HSNO application register
If the seeds or plants are not listed on MPI’s Plants Biosecurity Index or Global Biodiversity Information Facility under another name, search the HSNO application register.
The register will tell you if the seed or plant has been determined as “not new” in New Zealand, or if it is listed under an existing approval.
If the seeds or plants you have searched for:
- do not have approval, or if we determine that it is a new species, you need to apply to us for a determination or approval to import them
- already have an approval to be released into New Zealand, have been determined as “not new” (see List of plants present in New Zealand), and MPI has an Import Health Standard for the plant, you can import them.
Conditional release or for use in containment
If you see the approval is for “conditional release”, or “importation into containment”, on the HSNO application register, you can use the approval as long as you comply with the conditions on that approval.
Note: to import a seed or plant into containment, the facility must be approved by MPI.
Prove the seeds or plants are already in New Zealand
If you have evidence that the plants or seeds were present in New Zealand before 29 July 1998 (eg, evidence from local plant catalogues, scientific papers, signed statements from people who have these plants, or pre-1998 import permits) you may be able to import it. This depends on the quality of the evidence you provide.
For advice you can email:
If MPI believes the seeds or plants are new despite you providing evidence that they are not, you can apply to the EPA to get a formal determination on the status of the plant in New Zealand. MPI may also need to do a risk assessment to consider the biosecurity risks that may be associated with the import of the seeds or plants.
Getting approval to import new species of seeds or plants
You can apply to us to import the new species. There are some steps to follow.
- Fill in an application form. With your application, provide information about the seeds or plants: the potential risks and benefits to the environment, human health, Māori culture and traditions, the economy, and society and communities.
- Consult with Māori. This to support your application to provide any effects on Māori culture and traditions.
- Contact MPI to discuss import requirements, particularly if there is no existing Import Health Standard. Email: email@example.com
The application process can take between six and nine months, and there is a $34,500 fee.