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NZ Customs Service and MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) clearance

Customs: Can you bring your household goods?

People who hold long-term temporary visas (such as long-term business and work to residence visas) will not have to pay any Customs duty on their baggage and effects, including ships, aircraft, motor vehicles, and household effects.

Who's does not have to pay customs when arriving in New Zealand?

Anyone who holds

  • a New Zealand passport
  • an Australian passport
  • a current New Zealand residence visa or permit, or current returning resident’s visa or permit
  • a current permanent residence visa (including a resident return visa) issued by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia
  • a current work visa or work permit that was issued for a minimum of 12 months
  • a current work visa or work permit, issued under the Long Term Business Visa policy, that was issued for a minimum of 9 months
  • a current visitor’s visa or permit that was issued for a minimum of 3 years.

Clearance Procedures

To obtain clearance of the shipment you need to:

  • complete an Unaccompanied Personal Baggage Declaration form, which is the declaration for Agriculture and Customs
  • arrange an agricultural clearance for the shipment through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
  • obtain any permits that may be needed, for example, a Police Permit to Import if you have firearms in the shipment
  • arrange for a Customs clearance.

If you are overseas at the time your goods arrive, you will need to arrange for someone to arrange clearance on your behalf. They are not expected to supply your passport, just your passport number(s).

When Customs Charges are Payable

Where the criteria for duty free entry of household effects are not met, Customs charges may be payable. Where applicable, Customs duty is levied on the transaction value of the goods (the price actually paid for them). A depreciation allowance for length of personal ownership and use may also be given.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 12.5 percent is then calculated on the duty inclusive value, plus international freight and insurance. It is recommended that you retain your purchase documentation.

If the total amount owing on the goods imported is less than $50, no revenue collection will be made. This revenue waiver does not apply to tobacco products.

When No Customs Charges Apply

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 your arrive, provided you can meet all of the following requirements:

  • you are coming to New Zealand with the intention and legal authority to take up or resume permanent residence
  • you have lived outside New Zealand for the whole of the 21 months before the date of your arrival in New Zealand
  • you have owned and used the goods before the date of your departure for New Zealand
  • he goods are for your own personal use and not intended for any other person or persons or for gift, sale or exchange.
  • The following goods will not qualify for duty free entry, unless you can establish that the items have had personal use prior to their arrival in New Zealand:
  • goods shipped directly after purchase to avoid local taxes in the country of export
  • replacement electrical equipment operating to New Zealand standards.
  • Goods of a commercial nature (such as factory plant and office equipment) do not qualify as household effects.

Motor Vehicles

Concessionary entry for motor vehicles is available to immigrants and New Zealand residents returning after an absence overseas of 21 months or more, with the intention to take up or resume permanent residence (residence lasting indefinitely).


In order to qualify for concessionary entry, the following conditions must be met in full:

  • you have arrived in New Zealand with the legal authority to take up or resume permanent residence.
  • for the whole of the period of 21 months preceding your arrival, you have resided outside or have been domiciled outside New Zealand. Brief holidays or exploratory visits do not exclude a person from qualifying for this concession.
  • you have personally owned and used the vehicle for at least one year before the date of your departure for New Zealand, or the date on which the vehicle is surrendered for shipping, whichever is earlier
  • the vehicle is being imported for your own personal use and not for sale, gift or disposal in any other way
  • you give an undertaking that the vehicle granted duty/GST free entry will not be sold or otherwise disposed of within two years of importation.

These conditions are strictly applied and the New Zealand Customs Service has no discretionary licence to adapt them to suit particular circumstances. If the above criteria cannot be met, the vehicle will be considered a non-concessionary import and Customs charges are payable.

Period of Ownership and Actual Use

Vehicles will not qualify for concessionary entry if the owner surrenders them for shipping to New Zealand before the anniversary of the day on which original delivery was taken. For example, if you purchase and take delivery of a vehicle on 10 June, you must not hand it over to be shipped before 10 June of the following year, and you must not leave for New Zealand before that date.

MAF - Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

MAF informs, advises, regulates and delivers services relating to the agriculture, forestry, rural affairs, biosecurity and food safety portfolios.

New Zealand is unique in the world in its dependence on a biological and natural resource-based economy and society. Sustaining and managing those resources will continue to be important to New Zealand as a society into the foreseeable future.

Unaccompanied Personal Effects and Household Goods
All personal effects including household goods and unaccompanied baggage require quarantine risk assessment.

A declaration is required; this is made on an official form, which is obtained from MAF Quarantine Service or the Agent handling the shipment.

Obtaining Clearance - MAF Quarantine Service must receive the following documentation:

Personal Effects arriving via Airfreight:

1) - An Unaccompanied Personal Baggage Declaration. (NZCS 218/NQS QD1) This is an official form that is obtained from your nearest MAF Quarantine Service Office or the Agent handling the shipment.

2) - A detailed packing list that includes all the items in the consignment is required. This should include the package number (for example Box 1) and a list of items contained in each package

Personal Effects arriving via Sea Container: Both the above documents are required plus:

3) - A Sea Container Quarantine Declaration must be presented to MAF Quarantine Service. This document should be signed by a manager of the packing or exporter facility that declares that the container was inspected internally and externally and was found to be free of contaminants. It also states what type of packing materials and wood packaging was used.

4) - Any valid treatment certificates (eg fumigation/heat/cleaning) must also be supplied.

5) - A copy of the Unauthorised opening of Unaccompanied Personal Effects form must be completed for personal effects intended to be cleared at a private residence. This document is signed be the importer or agent to declare that the personal effects will not be opened without MAF Quarantine Service permission.

Once this completed documentation has been presented to the Quarantine Service an Officer will screen the declaration(s), along with the list of contents, against any relevant Import Health Standards to determine risk status. In many cases no inspection of the Personal Effects is required but an inspection of the container is mandatory. This will be carried out by an accredited person.

In many cases no inspection is needed.

If an inspection is required MAFQS will need to be notified of the location. Inspections may be carried out at the importing agents' premises or may be done at the final delivery location. The latter is dependant on the location (e.g. a rural area or the distance from the nearest MQS office) and the goods requiring inspection.

MAF Quarantine Service will charge for all clearances and inspections as per the Biosecurity Cost Regulations 2006.

Goods that the Quarantine Service has an interest in include:

  • Wooden items
  • Gardening Equipment
  • Lawn Mowers and Catchers
  • Foodstuffs
  • Medicines
  • Cane furniture
  • Bicycles
  • Golf clubs and buggies
  • Sporting shoes and equipment
  • Vacuum cleaners with un-emptied dust bags
  • Ornaments and curios containing skin or feathers
  • Christmas decorations
  • Dried flowers and seeds
  • Equipment/medicines used with horses or other animals
  • Used Vehicles

Please note these items are NOT necessarily prohibited, they require inspection.

In many instances a declaration as to the state of manufacture may lift this requirement. MAF inspections are generally to determine cleanliness and the presence or otherwise of insects or prohibited items.

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