Your 10 Step Guide to Importing Goods Into New Zealand

Find out what you need to know before importing goods into New Zealand with our helpful checklist.

Importing goods into New Zealand can be a great way to expand what you offer to your customers, especially if you can’t find a local manufacturer.


It’s important to be aware of the challenges, regulations, costs and more that come with importing from overseas.


Before you order your first container, read through our handy ten-step checklist and get the knowledge you need to understand what importing involves.

  1. 1

    Importing laws and government regulations

    You’ll need to make sure you’re allowed to import the particular product, animal or item you’re intending to import before you start. It’s important that you research this before you go ahead. You can do this through the New Zealand Customs website. MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) must be satisfied that it meets import regulations and rules and doesn’t pose a biosecurity risk. If it’s a food product, it needs to meet food safety and labelling requirements. All business or commercial goods coming into New Zealand need to be declared. You’ll need to lodge the details of your imports through the import entry clearance process with Customs, no later than 20 days after the goods arrive. You can lodge your details in advance – this is often preferred (and sometimes required) by MPI. How far in advance depends on how your goods are being delivered. Two ways to declare what you are importing:
  2. 1. Online declaration website– designed for infrequent importers and exporters.
  3. 2. Installing and using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) software from a private provider – the global standard platform for exchanging business data used by all large-scale importers.TIP: You will need to register in order to lodge your import documentation through the above methods
  4. 2  

    Find out if you need a specific permit

    Some items are also prohibited from import. You can find more information about these on the customs website. In general, you will be prevented or restricted from importing dangerous chemicals, pharmaceuticals, narcotics, certain foods, weapons, tobacco, and some biological materials.

  5. 3  

    Learn if your goods will need to be quarantined

    Because New Zealand relies heavily on its trade in agricultural products, they have to make sure that any pests and diseases that could threaten agricultural and horticultural industries are kept out of the country. For that reason, they have very strict biosecurity regulations and there are severe penalties for anyone who breaks them. People failing to declare goods with a biosecurity risk can receive an instant fine of $400, be fined up to $100,000 and/or face up to five years in prison. Therefore it is best to do your research! Go to prohibited and restricted items for more information.  
  6. 4  

    Learn about the excise and taxes you’ll need to pay

    You will almost certainly have to pay some excise or tariffs on your imported goods. Spend some time learning about on the customs website.

    • Import entry costs and processing charges.

    • How to value good for customs duty taxes.

    • Find out if you have to pay goods and services tax.

    • Getting the right tariff for your goods.

    • Excise duty on alcohol: The Excise and Excise-equivalent Duties Table in the Working Tariff Document of New Zealand has a full listing and description of all the excisable goods and excise rates.

  7. 5  

    Understand the charges for import duty, and goods and services sales tax

    As a general rule, most goods brought into New Zealand are subject to Customs duty, goods and services tax, and certain other specific levies. – Some of these levies Customs will collect on behalf of other Government agencies.

    This principle applies whether you are bringing in goods in your suitcase, have ordered them on the internet, or are a regular importer for business reasons.

    There are, however, other classes of goods which you may bring in with their duty reduced or which are free of duty entirely.

    There are many rules and it is a complex area – so it is well worth the effort to understand the terms and conditions before working out what customs duties and charges you may be faced with.

    Costs to consider:

    • Import entry costs and processing charges. That is, customs will charge you a fee for processing your goods.

    • Customs import duty is calculated as a percentage of the price you paid for the goods. The duty rate can range from 0% to 10%, but the rate for most goods is 5%.

    • Goods and services sales tax (GST) will also be charged based on the following:

    • The valuation of the goods plus;

    • The customs import duty amount plus;

    • The cost of insuring the goods and transporting them to New Zealand


    This is just intended as a general guide – These charges can be influenced by what you’re bringing in, excise taxes, free trade agreements, and many other factors. Please do check with customs for your individual circumstances.

  8. 6  

    Take advantage of any concessions

    All goods imported into New Zealand must be classified within the Tariff of New Zealand. Depending where the goods are classified will determine the amount of tariff duty payable. In a lot of cases, imported goods will attract no tariff duty at all. This is because most goods in the Tariff are duty-free (although GST will still remain payable). But a 5% and 10% tariff duty applies to some goods.

    If an importer is unsure where goods should be classified in the Tariff, a tariff rulings service is provided by Customs. Under New Zealand’s existing free trade agreements, preferential tariffs might apply to goods imported from specific countries if certain requirements are met. This means that those goods would have a lower rate of tariff duty then what is normally applied under the Tariff. A good may also become duty free by way of a tariff concession. Tariff concessions are generally approved for goods where no suitable alternative goods are produced or manufactured locally in New Zealand.

  9. 7  

    Understand free trade agreements (FTAs)

    Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) assist New Zealand traders (exporters and importers) by providing improved access to partner markets, and reducing trade barriers (such as Customs procedures) in those markets. Additional information is available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website.

  10. 8  

    Find out about other costs

    There are several other costs you’ll need to be prepared for:

    • The cost of buying the goods in the first place.

    • Shipping and logistics costs for overseas and domestic shipping.

    • Freight handling charges levied by airports or seaports.

    • Insurance and other costs.

  11. 9  

    Make sure your goods are labelled accurately

    At a minimum, imported goods must be properly labelled. This includes the country of manufacture and origin, a true description of the goods, a sender’s address, and a recipient’s address. The labels should be in English, attached to the goods in a prominent position and be clear and easy to read.

  12. 10  

    Avoid paying too much for currency

    Fee free international transfers

    Importing comes with a lot of challenges including paying overseas suppliers. If you need to transfer money overseas, consider using OFX. They specialise in international payments and receipts for Australian businesses

    OFX is a trusted partner of The Currency Shop. Click on this link , sign up and never pay a transfer fee for your international money transfers. Ever.

    OFX charges no transaction fees. Minimum transfer A$250. Third party intermediary fees may still apply.

Ileana Ionescu
Content manager
With a background in business journalism, Ileana is an experienced content manager, creating content for Exiap that helps its audience make informed decisions about their finances.
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Last updated
July 24th, 2020