New Zealand Customs: Everything You Need to Know About

Find out which items you need to declare at New Zealand customs, including prescription drugs, alcohol, cigars, and knives. Use this guide to check the limit of duty-free allowance.

What do I need to enter New Zealand?

Before boarding the plane to New Zealand, you must ensure that you have a passport valid for at least three months after the date of your departure.

In addition to a valid passport, you must have proof that you will leave New Zealand. You also have to show that you have enough money to cover your expenses in New Zealand.

Even if you are a citizen of one of the visa-exemption countries, you still need an NZ eTA to enter New Zealand. Citizens of countries eligible for eTA for New Zealand can obtain their electronic authorization by completing a simple online application form. On the eTA application form, applicants have to provide personal information such as their name, address, date of birth, passport details, and travel itinerary. Some additional questions on the application form are related to health and safety. Australian citizens do not need a visa or eTA to enter New Zealand.

Keep in mind that if you have a police record, NZ customs may deny you entry to New Zealand. In this case, contact Immigration New Zealand (INZ) for more information.

Before boarding your flight to visit New Zealand, you should make yourself familiar with the items you can bring and how you can cross the New Zealand customs without any problems. The last thing you want is to be overwhelmed with questions after a super long flight.

What happens on the plane before landing in New Zealand?

New Zealand Passenger Card - Front
New Zealand Passenger Card – Front

Before you get off the board, you may be given a New Zealand Passenger Arrival Card that you must complete for customs and immigration. If you didn’t receive it on the plane, you will find it available to fill in at the Customs and Immigration office.

On the Passenger Arrival Card, there are questions about you, the purpose of your visit, and what items you bring to New Zealand. The New Zealand Customs Service uses this information to determine if you can be allowed to enter the country.

We recommend not making false statements on your Passenger Arrival Card. Find out what you can and cannot bring in New Zealand and fill out the information on the Passenger Arrival Card carefully.

What happens when I get to the passport control?

When you arrive at passport control, you must turn in your passport and the Passenger Arrival Card you filled in.

The immigration officer may ask you some questions based on the documents you delivered or general questions, such as how long you will stay, what the purpose of your visit will be, if you are visiting family or friends, etc.

The general rules for answering these questions are:

  • If you are asked a Yes/No question, answer Yes/No without giving additional explanations;
  • Answer as clearly as possible;
  • Always keep in mind where you are going, what places you would visit, or what activities you would do in New Zealand, as that information is usually on top of the list of questions;
  • If you travel alone, it is best to say that you are traveling alone in New Zealand and that you will not visit anyone.

What happens when I arrive at New Zealand customs?

New Zealand Customs sign at Auckland airport
New Zealand Customs sign

After passing the passport control, you have to collect your luggage.

While you wait for your bags, a border security officer and a dog can visit you. If the officer asks you to put some of your belongings on the floor, please do so. The dog will sniff to detect restricted items, for example, food. If the dog signals that there may be prohibited items in their bags, the customs, and border protection officer may request that they register their bags.

After picking up your luggage and heading towards the exit, you may be scanned with an x-ray machine. Customs officers may also want to examine your bags manually.

There may be another New Zealand customs officer waiting to pick up your arrival card, and you may be asked about the answers you have given on your card. Officials do this for biosecurity reasons. For example, if you have camping equipment or hiking shoes and have mentioned it on the card, you may be asked about it.

New Zealand is rigid regarding biosecurity. So make sure you know all the rules and guidelines and strictly follow them.

What items can I take/can’t take to NZ?

Several items are not allowed into the country to protect New Zealand and its environment. Their entry is restricted, and these must be mentioned in the declaration form if they are considered a biosafety risk. These restricted items can be food, plants or plant products, animals or animal products, medicines, biological crops, organisms, and equipment for outdoor activities such as hunting, hiking, fishing, gardening, golf, or sports equipment.

Also, keep in mind that there are products regulated by the CITES agreement (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). As New Zealand is a part of the CITES agreement, endangered animal or plant species are not allowed in New Zealand without special permission.

As a visitor to New Zealand, you may be entitled to various concessions and tax-free tickets for some of your possessions. If you are 17 years of age or older, you are allowed to bring alcohol, cigarettes, and tobacco. You may have to pay customs fees and other payments if you import certain items for personal or commercial use.

Prohibited and restricted items

Some items are prohibited and cannot be imported to New Zealand. Others require approval.

New Zealand customs food restrictions

Foreign food items are restricted in New Zealand because there is a possibility that the pests or diseases with your food items will contaminate the country’s environment.

Risky items include food, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, honey, cooking ingredients, dairy products, alive or dead plants and seeds, wooden items, alive or dead animals or animal products, and herbal medicines.

If you don’t declare the restricted food items, the New Zealand Customs Service officials might fine or prosecute you.

Drugs and smoking equipment

You cannot bring prohibited drugs, cannabis, and equipment used to consume those. The items include bongs, hash pipes, vaporizers, or any heatproof bowl attached to a pipe, except for tobacco pipes.

Firearms and weapons

To bring firearms into New Zealand, you need an NZ Police Permit before you arrive in the country. Weapons or disguised weapons such as knives, knuckle-dusters, swordsticks, and bayonets are prohibited in NZ customs.

According to New Zealand laws, pepper spray is a weapon and therefore will not be allowed through customs.

Are butterfly knives illegal in New Zealand?

The butterfly knife, also known as a Balisong, is a type of pocket knife that you can fold and conceal the blade within the grooves of the handles. In New Zealand, a butterfly knife is a prohibited weapon. For this reason, you won’t be able to carry it through NZ customs.

Bringing money into New Zealand

You can bring up to NZ$10,000 cash into New Zealand without a declaration. If you are bringing more money, you have to mention that in the Passenger Arrival Card. We recommended bringing less than $10,000 cash into New Zealand as most major businesses accept cards. However, make sure you have enough money in your credit/debit card to cover your expenses during your stay.

Outdoor, camping, and sporting equipment

Outdoor equipment can harbor traces of disease-carrying organisms that may get into and contaminate New Zealand’s environment. Take special care when importing wood products, golf clubs, sports equipment, camping equipment, and boots that may have dirt or mud.

Publications and objectionable material

Upon arrival, you have to declare if you possess any publication that might be about sexual, violent, or disturbing nature. al. The publication could be films, videos, video games, DVDs, posters, music recordings, books, magazines, paintings, photographs, t-shirts, and computer files.

Possessing some objectionable material such as child pornography or terrorist propaganda publications is a serious offense. It might lead to arrest and up to 14 years of imprisonment.

Other Items

Transmitting devices, such as cellphones, health monitors, radio, and GPS trackers might interrupt broadcasting and radio-communication services. These devices have to meet the New Zealand technical standards.

The customs body strictly controls the import of children’s graphic materials to prevent children from exposure to toxic substances, such as lead, chromium, and mercury. These include crayons, watercolor, and finger paints.

If you are bringing human ashes into New Zealand, you have to declare it beforehand. Also, keep the death certificate of the deceased person handy.

Medications

You may be able to bring prescription medications to New Zealand if you can show a prescription from a registered doctor. You don’t need any documentation or declaration for over-the-counter medicines such as Nyquil, Tylenol, or Paracetamol. Make sure that you only carry three months’ supply of prescription medicines and one months’ supply of controlled drugs.

Prohibited and restricted exports

You can’t take some items out of New Zealand without a permit. Some of these are unprocessed pounamu (greenstone), paua meat, and some specific wildlife, antiquities, and artforms.

NZ Customs officers and passengers at self-service kiosks
NZ Customs Self-service kiosks

Duty-free allowances in New Zealand

When entering New Zealand, duty-free allowances allows you to bring goods purchased overseas without paying custom duties. You can also take advantage of duty-free shopping on your way back. Duty-free is applicable only for the goods with a combined value of NZ$700, and it excludes alcohol and tobacco products. If the value of the goods you are carrying exceeds the duty-free limit of NZ$700, you will need to collect Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Duty-free limit for alcohol

You don’t have to pay customs duty or GST on alcohol if you follow the allowances:

  • Six bottles ( maximum 4.5 liters) of wine, port, champagne, or sherry
  • Twelve cans (maximum 4.5 liters) of beer
  • Three bottles (maximum 1125ml) of spirits or spirituous beverages

You have to be at least 17 years old to avail duty-free allowances on alcohol and at least 18 years to buy alcohol in New Zealand.

Duties on alcoholic beverages above the duty-free limit

  • Beer (1.98 liter pack/6 cans/bottles): NZ$1.5 – NZ$5.07
  • French champagne (750 ml): NZ$8.45
  • Wine, Sherry, Port, Vermouth (759ml): NZ$4.7 – NZ$10.7
  • Whiskey and bourbon (1000ml): NZ$29.38 – NZ$35.08
  • Vodka, gin, brandy, and liquors (1000ml): NZ$26.25 – NZ$27.88

Duties vary according to the alcohol strength and origin (Kiwi or non-Kiwi).

Duty-free limit for tobacco products

You don’t have to pay a customs duty or GST on tobacco if you follow the allowance:

  • 50 cigarettes, or
  • 50 grams of cigars, or
  • A mixture of tobacco products weighing not more than 50 grams.

Duties on tobacco above the duty-free allowances

  • Tobacco (per 50 grams): NZ$76.68 (Australian/NZ origin) or NZ$77.01 (Other)
  • Cigarettes (per 50 pieces): NZ$54.94 (Australian/NZ origin) or NZ$55.58 (Other)
  • Cigars and cigarillos (per 50 grams): NZ$70.53

Any amount of tobacco products sent into New Zealand through mail or cargo is liable for the duty charges.

Note that the duty-free concessions are only applicable to products carried by you for your personal use. If you bring more quantities than allowed, you will have to pay full duties the excess alcohol or tobacco.

Where can I search for information and consultation at customs?

If you are still unsure if you can bring or take something out of New Zealand, you can reach out to the New Zealand customs through phone, email, or post.

Calling from New Zealand: 0800 428 786, outside the country +64 9 927 8036

Postal address:
New Zealand Customs Service
PO Box 2218
Wellington 6140

Address:
The Customhouse
1 Hinemoa Street
Harbor Quays
Wellington 6011

*the pictures from this article are from New Zealand Customs Service