Find out about importing plants to New Zealand and what to do if you have seeds detained at the border.

You will need to find out whether the nursery stock (such as plants, tissue cultures, and bulbs) or seed might be from a species that is considered to be a new organism under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

Plant species that are new organisms need EPA approval to be imported into New Zealand.

The following steps set out what you can do to work out whether or not your nursery stock or seed is a new organism, prior to confirming this with us.

Step 1: Check if your plant species is not a new organism

The Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI) Plants Biosecurity Index (PBI) is a register of nearly 30,000 approved plant species. It identifies the requirements for importing seed for sowing and nursery stock and whether they can be released into New Zealand.

If your plant species is listed on the PBI with an Import Specification, you do not need EPA approval to bring it into New Zealand. 

If your species is listed but reads as 'Requires assessment' or 'Entry prohibited', you should contact MPI for more information.

You can also find out more about importing nursery stock and seed for sowing on MPI website, including instructions for searching the PBI:

Information about importing plants - Ministry for Primary Industries website

Search MPI's Plants Biosecurity Index database [external database]

Contact the Plant Imports team at the MPI for assistance:

New Zealand: 0800 00 83 33
International: +64 4 830 1574
Email: plantimports@mpi.govt.nz

Note: You will still need to meet New Zealand's biosecurity requirements to be able to import plant species.

If your plant species does not have an associated import specification, go to Step 2.

Step 2: Your plant species does not have an associated import specification on the PBI

If your plant species does not have an associated import specification on the PBI, then it may be a new organism. Your plants may be detained for this reason. Your plants may also be detained if you don’t provide the correct scientific name for your plant.

You have three options if your plant species does not have an associated import specification on the PBI:

Option 1

  • Check to see if your plant species is known by another name (synonym) by taxonomic authorities, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and if the synonym is associated with an import specification on the PBI.

Search the Global Biodiversity Information Facility website [external website]

  • If you provide MPI with evidence that the plant species is known by another name which has an associated import specification on the PBI, you may not need an approval from us to import or use this plant species into New Zealand. Please contact MPI to discuss this.

Option 2

Find evidence that your plant species is present in New Zealand since before 29 July 1998. 

  • If you have evidence that the plant species was present in New Zealand before 29 July 1998 (for example, evidence from local plant catalogues, scientific papers, signed statements from person(s) who have these plants, or pre-1998 import permits for this plant species) you may be able to import it. This will depend on the quality of the evidence. You will need to talk to MPI as well as the EPA about this.  

  • If you have evidence that the plant was in New Zealand before 29 July 1998, or MPI has reason to believe the plant species is a new organism despite that evidence, you may wish to apply to the EPA for a statutory determination. Please contact us to discuss this.

Option 3

Find out if your plant species is approved by the EPA for import into New Zealand.

Search our HSNO application register to see whether we have made a determination as to whether the plant species is new or not, or given an approval. 

Search our HSNO application register

  • If it's not approved, you need to make an application to import the new plant species into New Zealand.
  • If we have determined that the plant species is not new, or if we have given an approval for importation and release of the plant species into New Zealand, and MPI has an Import Health Standard for the species, it is eligible to be imported and released. 
  • If the EPA approval is for conditional release, or importation into containment, you can use the approval provided you comply with any conditions on that approval.
  • If there is no evidence that this plant species is present in New Zealand, or has an existing approval, you will need to apply for a release or a containment approval before your plant can be imported into New Zealand. Please contact us to discuss whether either of these options is right for you.

MPI may also need to do a risk assessment to consider the biosecurity risks which may be associated with the plant species. If you are going to apply to us to import the plant for release into the environment, you should also contact MPI to discuss import requirements, particularly if there is no Import Health Standard for the species.