Importing plants and seeds

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

​First you will need to find out whether the nursery stock (e.g. plants, tissue cultures, bulbs) or seed is considered to be a new organism. Plant species that are new organisms will need EPA approval to be imported or used in New Zealand.

The following steps set out what you can do to work out whether your nursery stock or seed is considered to be a new organism, prior to confirming this with us.

Step 1: Work out if your plant species is new

The Ministry for Primary Industries' Plant Biosecurity Index (PBI) is a register of close to 30,000 approved plant species and identifies the requirements for importing seed for sowing and nursery stock.

If your plant species is listed on the PBI, you do not need EPA approval to bring it into New Zealand. You can find out more about importing nursery stock and seed for sowing on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website, including instructions for searching the PBI.

Information about importing plants - Ministry for Primary Industries website

Contact the plant imports team at the Ministry for Primary Industries for assistance:

New Zealand calls: 0800 00 83 33 
International calls +64 4 894 5514
email: plantimports@mpi.govt.nz

Please note that even if your plant species is listed on the PBI, you will still need to meet New Zealand's biosecurity requirements to be able to import. If your plant species is not on the PBI, go to Step 2.

Step 2: Your plant species is not on the PBI and is likely to be a new organism 

If your plant species is not listed on the PBI, then it will by default be considered to be a new organism. Your seeds may be detained for this reason. Your seeds may also be detained if you don’t provide the correct scientific name for your plant.

You have three options if your plant species is not listed on the PBI:

Option 1:

Check to see if your plant species is known by another name (synonym) which is listed on the PBI. 

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

Option 2:

Find evidence that your plant species is present in New Zealand.

  • 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) a statutory process may be required to determine if this plant species is not a new organism. Please contact us to discuss this.

Option 3:

Make an application to import the new plant species into New Zealand.

  • If there is no evidence that this plant species is present in New Zealand, you will need to make an application (a release application) to us so that we can do a risk assessment before your plant can be introduced into the New Zealand environment. Please note that release applications require a substantial amount of information about the plant species and you will need to provide information on the potential effects of the plant species on the environment, human health, society, Māori culture and traditions, and the market economy. Please contact us to talk about if this option 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 intending to make an application to the EPA, you should also contact MPI to talk to them about an application for the development of an import health standard for the species.