About new organisms
Our economy relies on organisms that are not native to New Zealand. We need to assess and manage the risks of introducing new organisms into New Zealand.
We manage risks to the environment, the health and safety of people, Māori culture and traditions and the market economy from organisms that are new to New Zealand without limiting New Zealand’s future potential for innovation.
What is a new organism?
An organism includes microorganisms (including bacteria and viruses), cell lines, human cells (but not human beings), sperm, oocytes (cells from which an egg or ovum develops), embryos, seeds, plants, fish, and animals.
In New Zealand, a new organism is defined as:
- An organism that arrived in New Zealand after 29 July 1998.
- An organism that became extinct before 29 July 1998.
- An organism with approval to be in containment.
- An organism with approval to be released with controls.
- A genetically modified organism.
- An organism that was deliberately eradicated from New Zealand (as the result a specified eradication programme with a stated goal or purpose of eliminating the organism from New Zealand).
- An organism that was present in New Zealand before 29 July 1998 in contravention of the Animals Act 1967 or the Plants Act 1970 (except for the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (rabbit calicivirus)).
- A risk species, which is defined as a population of a species present in New Zealand that may only represent a small subset of its full genetic potential. Some of that potential could be harmful to New Zealand. In such cases, the species can be regulated as a ‘risk species’. This means that the species—with the exception of the population already present in New Zealand—becomes a new organism.
If your organism is a new organism, you need approval from us to import, develop, field test or release your organism in New Zealand. Approval cannot be given to prohibited organisms.
Databases of organisms present in New Zealand
There are a number of databases that can help you to determine if your organism was present in New Zealand before 29 July 1998. Any organism that is officially recorded as being present in the New Zealand environment before this date is not a new organism.
Unfortunately, there is currently not a single list of all the species that are present in New Zealand. If your organism doesn't appear in one of the following databases or you have reason to believe it isn't a new organism, you can apply for a formal determination of its status.
All organisms—the HSNO Application Register
The HSNO Application Register records every application made to us. If an organism has been determined to not be a new organism or it has been approved for release without conditions, it can be imported into New Zealand without further approval from us.
View our list of microbes, animals and plants we have determined to be present through statutory and non-statutory advice (last update December 2015)
The Plants Biosecurity Index (PBI) contains a list of plant species that are legally allowed to be imported into New Zealand, subject to the relevant Import Health Standard (IHS) under the Biosecurity Act. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) oversees this list, and undertakes an assessment of biosecurity risks for a plant before it is assigned to an IHS. Plant species listed on the PBI are not new organisms.
The nzflora website carries information on the naturalised and indigenous plants of New Zealand:
The best database for micro organisms is the Landcare fungi (and bacteria) database. This database also records organisms in other countries so you will need to make sure that the organism is listed as present in New Zealand.
The Ornithological Society of New Zealand lists all birds known to be present in New Zealand in the New Zealand Recognised Bird Names (NZRBN) database.
New Zealand Recognised Bird Names (NZRBN) (pdf 129KB)
Fish and Marine Invertebrates
The Ornamental Fish and Marine Invertebrate Import Health Standard lists a number of species that are not new and can be imported into New Zealand without approval from us.
Biological control agents
Please note that certain biological control agents are still classed as new organisms and as such are still regulated under the HSNO Act.
I've checked but I'm still not sure if my organism is new
If you need help to work out if it is a new organism or believe the organism you wish to import or work with has been incorrectly classed as a new organism, then you can apply to us to determine whether it is new or not (ie. whether it is present in New Zealand).
The information on how to do this is found under the heading "Request a determination about whether an organism is regulated by the EPA" on this page of our website:
The New Organisms Team
Whether you want to import and release a garden plant or animal, or conduct research in a laboratory, the New Organisms team can help you lodge your application. We will advise you if an application is required, what type of application you should make and guide you through the application process.
If you want to make a submission on a particular application but need more information, we can help you with that process too. We always try to act in a transparent manner so that you are kept well informed of the application and submission processes.
If you need more information, please get in touch. We are happy to help you as much as possible.
The majority of the people in the New Organisms team have a scientific background. Our team has experience in one or more fields relating to the risk assessment and management of new organisms. Post graduate research experience in the group includes molecular biology, immunology and pathology, genetics, mammalian physiology, ecology, conservation and biodiversity.
Many of the people in the New Organisms team worked in academic and industry research or environmental management before starting a career in this organisation. They have worked in biotechnology and medical research and disease investigation.
We strive to provide excellent administration, project management, customer service and communication in order to make the application process as efficient as possible.