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General Travel Info
Customs Information

customs policy

This information has been reproduced with permission from, and courtesy of the New Zealand Customs Service. For further inquiries and confirmation of the information, call Customs freephone 0800 428 786 or visit the Customs Service web site www.customs.govt.nz


Do not import drugs into New Zealand. The importation of drugs could result in your imprisonment. Be wary of carrying packages or baggage for strangers.
Unless authorised by a licence or permit issued by the Director-General of Health, the importation of Methadone is prohibited.

Drug trafficking is not worth the risk

Smuggling and False Receipts

There are heavy penalties for concealing dutiable goods from Customs and for making false declarations. When purchasing expensive items overseas, such as jewellery and electronic equipment, you may be offered a false receipt purporting to show a purchase price lower than that actually paid as a means of reducing the Customs charges payable.
Do not succumb to these temptations since concealment of dutiable goods and the presentation of false documentation are serious offences which might entail the forfeiture of the articles, as well as having to pay a substantial penalty. You may also be prosecuted.

Honesty is the best policy

On Arrival


Prior to your arrival you will receive a New Zealand Passenger Arrival Card. You must tick ‘Yes’ in the Customs section of your Arrival Card if you are bringing into New Zealand:

  • goods that may be prohibited or restricted, such as weapons, objectionable (indecent) articles, or illicit drugs; or
  • goods in excess of the concessions listed on pages 6 and 7; or
  • goods for commercial, business, or trade purposes; or
  • goods carried on behalf of another person; or
  • NZ$10,000 or more, or the equivalent in foreign currency.

You do not have to declare your clothing, footwear, jewellery, and toiletries — these are regarded as “personal effects” if intended solely for your own use.

Please have any purchase receipts readily available.

Red/Green Ways Out

After collecting your baggage and clearing Customs passport control you will not be directed to any exit. If you have any Customs or Agricultural goods declared on your Arrival Card, please go to the “Goods to Declare Way Out” (Red Exit). Otherwise walk through the “Nothing to Declare Way Out” (Green Exit). If you are unsure go to the Red Way Out.

Baggage Search

Customs officers may search the baggage of any passenger. A baggage search may also be asked for from the Agriculture/Quarantine officer.

Prohibited & Restricted Imports

An important Customs function is screening out items harmful to New Zealand’s interests. Importation of some goods is prohibited. Others may be admitted only after they have been subjected to treatment.


The Financial Transactions Reporting Act 1996 requires a Border Cash Report to be completed by every person who carries New Zealand cash and/or foreign cash into or out of New Zealand, on their person or in their baggage, and the total value of the cash involved is NZ$10,000 or more (or foreign equivalent). Border Cash Reports are available from Customs. Cash does not include travellers cheques, postal notes, bearer bonds or money orders. Failure to report or the presentation of a false or misleading report renders a person liable to a monetary penalty not exceeding $2,000.

Agricultural Items

The following classes of goods must be declared:

  • food of any kind
  • plants or parts of plants (alive or dead)
  • animals (alive or dead) or their products
  • equipment used with animals
  • equipment such as camping gear, golf clubs, and used bicycles
  • biological specimens.

Domestic Pets

There are prohibitions and restrictions governing the entry of domestic pets such as cats and dogs into New Zealand and these are strictly enforced. Further information on agricultural requirements can be obtained by contacting the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Box 3042, Wellington, or the nearest New Zealand Overseas Representative.

Firearms and Weapons

The importation of firearms is strictly controlled and a Police permit to import is required. The importation of certain types of weapons such as flick knives, swordsticks, knuckle-dusters and any weapon designed to give the appearance of another article is prohibited.


If you require medicines containing habit forming drugs or narcotics (e.g., diuretics, depressants, stimulants, heart drugs, tranquillisers, sleeping pills) you should:

  • have a prescription from your physician advising that the medicine is being used under a doctor’s direction and is necessary for your physical well-being; and
  • carry the drugs in their original containers.

Note: The importation of Methadone and Morphine is prohibited, unless it has been authorised by a licence or permit issued by the Director-General of Health.

Objectionable Articles

Articles such as objectionable (indecent) video tapes, films, records, and publications are prohibited imports and will be seized.

Radio Transmitters and Telecommunications Equipment

Travellers considering the purchase and importation of transmitters, cordless and cellular phones and similar equipment, should first check with the Communications Division of the Ministry of Commerce that their devices meet New Zealand technical standards and will not cause interference to other radio or television broadcast reception.


New Zealand is a party to a world-wide agreement (the CITES agreement) designed to prevent trade in endangered, threatened or exploited species. It covers both the live plants and animals themselves and products made from them such as those listed below, which cannot be brought into New Zealand, or can only be brought in with a special permit. There are also corresponding restrictions on the goods which you can export from this country at the completion of your visit.

Shopping Checklist

Goods you cannot bring back to New Zealand:

  • ivory in any form, including jewellery and carvings
  • tortoise or sea turtle shell jewellery and ornaments
  • meat or other food made from whales, dolphins, rare cranes and pheasants, or sea turtles
  • medicines using musk, or rhinoceros or tiger derivatives such as ground horn or bone
  • carvings or other things made from whalebone or bone from many other marine mammals
  • cat skins or coats
  • trophies of: sea turtles, all big cats, rare reptiles, cranes, pheasants, bears, antelope, and deer
  • live species including: pet eagles, hawks, owls and parrots, many cacti, orchids, cycads, cyclamens, and carnivorous plants.

Goods you need a CITES export permit for:

  • all clam shells and bits of coral — even those you just pick up on the beach
  • bird of paradise feathers
  • many big game trophies
  • some live cranes, pheasants, quail, and many small cage birds such as finches
  • many goods such as belts, bags, watchstraps or shoes made from skins or crocodiles, lizards, large snakes, or other reptiles
  • many butterfly collections
  • some ferns and any carnivorous plants, cycads, orchids, cyclamens and cacti not completely prohibited
  • anything made from any of these species or which incorporates some part of them.

Remember — if in doubt, don’t buy


All goods brought to New Zealand are subject to the control of the Customs. The following sections deal with the various concessions available to travellers.

Wearing apparel and other personal effects

  • Your clothing, toilet articles, personal jewellery (including watches) will be admitted free of duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) irrespective of whether they accompany you or are sent separately, provided:
    – they are intended for your own use or wear; and
    – are not intended for any other person or persons or for gift, sale or exchange.

Commercial quantities of individual items of apparel (including footwear) are not admissible under the provisions of this concession since the term “personal effects” used in the context of the concession only covers articles, new or used, which a traveller may reasonably require for his or her personal use during a journey or has acquired in the course of an overseas trip (in the case of a returning New Zealand resident).

Visitors to New Zealand

Under the category of other personal effects, a visitor may also import without payment of Customs charges:

  • cameras, both video and photographic
  • portable radio receivers, television sets, laptop computers, sound recorders, video recorders
  • musical instruments (portable)
  • binoculars
  • sports equipment
  • perambulators and push chairs
  • wheel-chairs for invalids

on the condition that the goods will be taken from New Zealand at the completion of the visit.
If a visitor is unable to satisfy this requirement, Customs may require a cash deposit to cover the duty and GST normally payable. The deposit will be refunded when the goods have been exported.

Accompanied Goods Concessions

For each passenger:

  • goods up to a total combined value of $700 are free of duty and exempt GST
  • goods in excess of the value of $700 or the separate tobacco and alcoholic liquor quantities set out below attract duty (where applicable) and GST. This will only be collected where the revenue assessment is $50 or more.

The concessions apply only in respect of goods that:

  • accompany a passenger through the Customs arrival processes; and
    – are for the personal use of the passenger, or intended as gifts; and
    – are not for use in the passenger’s business or profession; and
    – are not imported for other persons at their request.

Passengers travelling together cannot combine their individual $700 concessions. Children may claim the concession provided the goods are their own property and of a type a child would reasonably expect to own and use.

Cigarettes, Cigars, Tobacco, and Alcoholic Liquor

In addition to the $700 duty free goods allowance, all passengers 17 years of age and over are entitled to import the following goods free of duty and exempt GST.

Cigarettes, Cigars, Tobacco

200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars or a mixture of all three weighing not more than 250 grams.

Alcoholic Liquor Concession

  • 4.5 litres of wine or 4.5 litres of beer — this is equivalent to six 750ml bottles
  • one bottle containing not more than 1125ml of spirits, liqueur, or other spirituous beverages.

Baggage Which Does Not Accompany You

If you find it necessary to send part of your baggage by post, or by ship or aircraft other than the one in which you travel, you can obtain maximum benefit from the concessions by:

  • sending separately any goods which you do not require on the voyage and which qualify for duty-free entry as personal effects
  • bringing with you in the same ship or aircraft the goods which do not qualify for duty-free entry as personal effects, but which may qualify under the concessions set out for accompanied goods.

Customs Charges

Full Customs charges are payable on goods which are not eligible for concession or are in excess of the allowances. However if the duty and/or GST combined is less than $50, no collection will be made.

Calculation of Customs Charges

Customs duty, where applicable is levied on the transaction value of the goods, i.e., the price actually paid for them. GST of 12.5% is then calculated on the duty inclusive value.

In cases where there is no identifiable transaction cost, such as for items gifted to the traveller, Customs will endeavour to have the goods valued independently.

Payment of Customs Charges

Payments will only be accepted in New Zealand currency. Passengers may pay Customs charges by using any of the following credit cards: VISA, Bankcard, Mastercharge, Diners Club, American Express.

Immigrants and New Zealand Residents Returning to Resume Permanent Residence After 21 Months or More Overseas

You are entitled to the following additional concessions and they apply whether the goods accompany you or are sent separately.

Household or Other Related Effects

Your household or other related effects (excluding motor vehicles, boats and aircraft) will be admitted free of duty and exempt GST for a reasonable time after you arrive, provided you can meet the following requirements:

  • you are coming to New Zealand with the intention and legal authority to take up permanent residence; and
  • you have lived outside New Zealand for the whole of the 21 months before the date of your arrival in New Zealand; and
  • you have owned and used the goods before the date of your departure for New Zealand; and
  • the goods are for your own personal use and not intended for any other person or persons or for gift, sale or exchange
  • goods of a commercial nature such as factory plant and office equipment do not qualify as household effects.

Note: Goods shipped directly after purchase to avoid local taxes in the country of export, and replacement electrical equipment operating to New Zealand standards, will not qualify for entry under this concession unless the importer can establish that the items have had personal use prior to their arrival in New Zealand.

Motor Vehicles and Boats

Motor vehicles (other than ambulances and motor homes (camper vans)) are free of tariff duty. The concession available to an immigrant, i.e., a person coming to New Zealand to take up permanent residence for the first time, only gives relief from GST. In respect of imported goods, GST is defined as a Customs duty and, therefore, any reference to duty in the text set out below should be read in context. Boats and motor homes (camper vans) attract both tariff duty and GST.

It is possible for more than one motor vehicle, motorcycle, motor scooter, and boat to be imported free of all Customs charges, provided that the importer/owner is able to meet all of the concessionary requirements in respect of each vehicle or boat. Full documentary evidence should be available to establish that:

(a) you are coming to New Zealand for the first time and have the legal authority to take up permanent residence. (Brief holiday or exploratory visits do not debar a person from qualifying for this concession)

(b) you have personally owned and used the vehicle or boat for at least one year before the date of your departure for New Zealand or the date on which the vehicle or boat is surrendered for shipping (or, where the boat is imported otherwise than as cargo, the date of its departure for New Zealand); whichever is the earlier

(c) the vehicle or boat is being imported for your own use and not for sale, gift or disposal in any other way

(d) an importer will be required to give an undertaking that a vehicle or boat granted duty and/or GST free entry will not be sold or otherwise disposed of within two years of the date of importation. In respect of a boat there is a further restriction that the boat will not be used in a commercial capacity for hire, or the transport of passengers for reward, within two years from the date of importation. (This requirement does not apply to those boats conforming to the size/weight limitations specified on pages 10 and 11).

The terms of the above concession are legal requirements as set out in the Tariff of New Zealand. Unless you can establish that all of the above requirements have been or will be complied with, full Customs charges will be payable. If you require an assessment of the amount of Customs charges payable on your vehicle, you should obtain a copy of the brochure Advice on Private Motor Vehicle Imports. This brochure explains how to calculate the value for duty (or GST) so that you can determine the Customs charges payable. In respect of a boat, you should write directly to the New Zealand Customs Service (NZCS) at your intended port of arrival.

Importers are strongly advised to research the viability of any proposed importation. The used motor vehicle market in New Zealand is extremely competitive by world standards and importations often prove to be uneconomic when shipping costs and Customs charges are taken into account.

Left-Hand Drive Vehicles

There are restrictions on the operation of left hand drive vehicles in New Zealand. Owners of such vehicles should, therefore, contact the Land Transport Safety Authority, Box 2840, Wellington, before making any plans to ship a vehicle to New Zealand. The LTSA can also be contacted on Telephone: +64-4-494 8600, and Fax: +64-4-494 8601.

Motor Vehicle Legislation

Prospective importers should bear in mind that vehicles which do not meet New Zealand regulations and Land Transport Rules, or are found to be structurally defective will not be allowed to be driven on the New Zealand road network.

The NZCS will not accept any responsibility in cases where a vehicle has been imported on either a duty free, or duty paid basis, but is subsequently denied registration for safety or other considerations.

To avoid such embarrassment, it is recommended that importers write to the Manager, Safety Promotion, Policy Division, Land Transport Safety Authority, Box 2840, Wellington, before making arrangements to ship a vehicle to New Zealand.

The LTSA can also be contacted on Telephone: +64-4-494 8600, Facsimile: +64-4-494 8601, or E-Mail: info@ltsa.govt.nz.


Applicability is confined to New Zealand residents returning to resume permanent residence after 21 months or more overseas. Immigrants (first time) are able to benefit from the concession on pages 8/9 which has no size/weight limitation. The following vessels qualify for concessionary entry.

(a) Sailing vessels that:

  • in the sailing condition do not exceed 2.5 metres in width at any section; and
  • do not exceed 1,000 kilograms unladen weight; and
  • do not incorporate any device for propelling the vessel by power, e.g., an auxiliary motor; and
  • are not of the deep keel type.

(b) Powered vessels that:

  • do not exceed 7 metres in length overall; and
  • do not exceed 2.5 metres in width at any section; and
  • do not exceed 1,250 kilograms all up unladen weight (i.e., with driving units and transmissions) or 800 kilograms unladen weight when imported without driving units and transmissions.

To qualify for this concession, the boat must have been personally owned and personally used by the importer for at least one year before the date of departure for New Zealand or the date of shipment of the boat (or where the boat is imported otherwise than as cargo, the date of its departure for New Zealand), whichever is the earlier. Importers will also be required to give a written undertaking that if the boat is sold or otherwise disposed of within two years from the date of importation, they will be required to pay the Customs duty plus GST that would normally have been payable.


Aircraft are free of duty and can also in certain circumstances be exempt GST under a concession which applies equally to immigrants and to New Zealand residents returning to resume permanent residence after 21 months or more overseas. To qualify, the aircraft must have been personally owned and personally used by the importer for at least one year before the date of departure for New Zealand or the date of shipment of the aircraft (or where the aircraft is imported otherwise than as cargo, the date of its departure for New Zealand), whichever is the earlier. Importers will also be required to give a written undertaking that if the aircraft is sold or otherwise disposed of within two years from the date of importation, they will be required to pay the GST that would normally have been payable.

Visitors Motor Vehicles

Visitors may import a motor vehicle (including an attached trailer or caravan) into New Zealand without payment of Customs charges provided it is the intention of the owner to take the vehicle from New Zealand at the conclusion of the visit. The normal period of temporary entry allowed is 12 months. In order to facilitate duty free entry, visitors are encouraged to have in their possession:

• a Carnet de Passages en Douanes (CPD) issued by AIT/FIA affiliated member clubs, i.e., Automobile Associations.

An importer will normally be expected to remove a vehicle within 12 months of the date of importation or at the expiry of the CPD (carnet), whichever is the earlier. In exceptional circumstances, the period of temporary importation may be extended with the agreement of Customs and the guaranteeing office which issued the temporary admission papers. Owners of vehicles which remain beyond the permitted period will be required to pay the Customs charges which would have been incurred had the vehicle been imported initially on a permanent basis.

If you do not have the above touring document in your possession, you will be required to put up a cash deposit to cover the full Customs charges. The deposit will be refunded provided the vehicle and attachments are exported within the stipulated period of temporary entry. This is normally restricted to 12 months but the NZCS may allow a once only extension provided such a request is made in good time.

Steam Cleaning of Motor Vehicles

All used vehicles are subject to a quarantine inspection on arrival by an inspector of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
If the vehicle is found to be contaminated with soil, plant material or animal material, it will require cleaning sufficient to remove the contaminant.
The charges for inspection and cleaning (if required) are the responsibility of the importer.

New Zealanders Departing on an Overseas Trip

Goods for Export and Return

There is no requirement for travellers to declare goods which were physically in their possession prior to the commencement of an overseas trip provided that the goods in question were not purchased duty free in New Zealand at the time of departure.

Prohibited Exports

There are restrictions on the export of certain goods, e.g., greenstone in its natural state, wildlife, antiquities and works of art. If you have any doubt about what you may or may not take with you, please inquire at your nearest Customs office.

Traps For Travellers

Are overseas countries concerned about drug problems?

Yes. In recent years, international concern over drug abuse has led to stronger law enforcement and tougher penalties for drug offences.
What are the penalties for drug offences in other countries?
These vary. In most countries, possession of drugs brings a fine or imprisonment or both. Drug trafficking carries the death sentence in some countries. In recent cases, New Zealanders and Australians have received lengthy jail sentences in addition to hefty fines. Possession of a minimal quantity of drugs is often evidence of trafficking.

Are New Zealanders arrested abroad protected by New Zealand Law?

No. They are subject to the law of the country in which an offence was committed.

Are offenders kept in jail during the pre-trial period?

This varies and may depend upon the gravity of the charge. In some countries there is no bail. The period between arrest and trial may range from a few days to as much as 18 months. In some countries this remand period may be counted as part of the sentence — in others it may not.

What can the New Zealand Embassy, Consulate, or High Commission do for New Zealanders detained on drug charges?

Officers of these Missions may visit the detainee after arrest to inform them of their rights and provide them with a list of lawyers from which they may select their own counsel. They may not act as lawyers or give legal advice. As a general rule they will contact relatives/friends of the detainee and seek their assistance.
They will ensure that the New Zealander receives the benefit of the same laws, administration, and protection which the foreign country affords its own subjects. Official funds cannot be advanced or used to pay legal fees or any other expenses of arrested New Zealanders.

Is legal representation in drug cases expensive?

The cost of legal representation can be extremely high. Fees are often requested in advance of services being provided.

Will conviction for a drug offence in any way affect future travel plans?

This very often leads to deportation from a country and to restrictions being placed on admission to many other countries.


Travellers can be easy targets for the professional drug trafficker.

“Take this back to New Zealand for me”

Don’t — unless you are sure they contain no drugs or other prohibited goods, it is safer not to carry anyone’s packages or baggage.

“It’s OK, It’s legal to use dope over here”

Don’t believe it — nearly all countries prohibit drug use. The proof of such misinformation could be a long jail sentence.

“They’ll never search you — you’re not the type they go for”

Don’t chance it — All types of persons are searched by Customs authorities. If you get caught you could face a long period in prison. Under New Zealand law the maximum sentence for importing or exporting a narcotic is life imprisonment.

Don’t be induced to trade in or transport drugs — You will be taking all the risks while the instigator takes all the profits. You might even be set up for the reward to be gained for informing the authorities about you.

If you have information concerning the importation of drugs or suspect that drugs are being imported, advise the authorities by phoning Free Phone 0800-654 279 or contact your local Customs office.

General Notes

Commercial Goods

If you are on a business visit and carrying commercial goods they may be subject to duty and GST. If the goods are intended for temporary importation, you may have to arrange security to cover duty and GST, pending re-export. New Zealand accepts ATA Carnets as security for the temporary importation of commercial samples, advertising material, and certain other materials and equipment. Please inquire at your local Chamber of Commerce for further details of the ATA Carnet system.

This information has been reproduced with the permission from, and courtesy of the New Zealand Customs Service. For further inquiries and confirmation of the information, call Customs freephone 0800 428 786 or visit the Customs Service web site www.customs.govt.nz

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