If you’re relocating to New Zealand, shipping your belongings to your new home is one of the big chores on your to-do list. Unfortunately, transporting your bulky possessions isn’t just a simple matter of hiring a removals company and everything just falling into place easily. Your goods will have to undergo a thorough inspection once they arrive in New Zealand, hence, it’s very important to know if the things you’re shipping will be authorized to go through and if you need to pay in order to collect them.

What happens to your shipment when it arrives?

Prior to your goods arriving at the destination port, your removal firm should send you details of when the shipment is booked in for, which ship your goods will be arriving on, and the name of their agent who will be handling the goods on your behalf. You should also receive, from the agent, forms relevant to Customs and Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) procedures. On arrival of the goods, your removal firm agent will arrange for them to be stored in the company’s storage facility until vetted by Customs and given clearance for removal. This inspection process usually takes from seven to ten days. You may have to wait up to a further two weeks for delivery of your goods if you live in a city and longer for a suburban or remote address.

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Customs guidelines

The MAF plays a major role in the customs procedures of New Zealand. The country is proud of its record for healthy livestock and agriculture and wants it to stay this way. As a result, officials are particularly vigilant when it comes to implementing quarantine regulations. Before your belongings are shipped, you’ll need to fill in and return your Quarantine Declaration Form and inventory to your removal company.

Based on the entries in these forms, the MAF agents will decide whether or not they wish to physically examine any of your goods. The main things they’ll watch out for is the presence of soil, dirt and other contaminants, as well as the use of wood packaging in any of the items in your shipment. MAF clearance duties are charged on the basis of the size of the shipment and vary from NZ$75.00 to around NZ$240.000. Full container loads cost NZ$330.00 (for a 20-foot freight container) and NZ$480.00 (for a 40-foot freight container). These charges must be paid in the port and don’t include charges for fumigation or steam-cleaning if necessary.

It can take up to five days to have an agriculture inspection and seven days if fumigation is necessary. You’ll only have to pay customs duty on personal and household items if you bought them 12 months prior to your move. If so, you must declare this fact together with receipts on your Unaccompanied Baggage Declaration NZCS218. Inherited goods need to be accompanied by a will and death certificate and antiques and artwork should have proof of purchase (if applicable). Antiques more than 100 years old won’t be taxed. Neither will artwork if you’ve owned it for longer than one year.

Banned goods include weapons (knives and swords), pistols, drugs, pornography, explosives (including fireworks) and animal trophies and items such as alligator skin handbags. Firearms are restricted (even starting pistols) and no gas is allowed.

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Other banned goods include:

  • Meat – either in canned or dried form
  • Spices
  • Dairy products such as eggs and milk
  • Honey and beekeeping equipment
  • Ivory, tortoise or turtle shell
  • Live animals
  • Clam shells and coral
  • Freshwater fish
  • Popcorn
  • Plants
  • Honeystraw and straw handcrafts
  • Endangered organisms
  • Biological cultures
  • Christmas decorations (particularly if containing dried pine cones/flowers etc)

Make sure that prams and outdoor gardening and sports equipment such as bikes, cricket bats and even training shoes are thoroughly cleaned to avoid contamination from dirt or soil. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying for fumigation and steam cleaning. You’ll also need to empty any vacuum cleaners and ensure that they are dust-free. Alcohol (an ‘acceptable’ quantity) is permitted duty-free as long as it’s for personal use. If you intend to bring firearms to New Zealand, you’ll need a special permit beforehand from the New Zealand Police Department and the item must be easily available to Customs officers for inspection. Motor vehicles need to be steam cleaned to completely remove soil and dirt. You must also be able to produce a certificate from the car manufacturer to show that the vehicle is compliant with frontal impact and emission standards for roads in New Zealand. Pets are permitted into the country provided they serve the appropriate quarantine period (six months prior to arrival). Certain dog breeds, however, are not permitted into the country. These include the pedigrees American Pit Bull Terrier, Dog Argentino, Japanese Tosa and Brazilian.

Getting your shipment cleared through customs

There are a number of documents you need to provide before your goods can be cleared and delivered to your new home. One of these is your inventory which you should fill in and sign if you do your packing yourself. Otherwise, your removal agent will sort this out and present it to the MAF when your shipment arrives. Other necessary documents include a copy of your passport photo page and visa which should be sent to your removal company’s agent in New Zealand prior to the arrival of your shipment. It’s this agent who will send out Quarantine and NZ Customs forms for you to return to them ready to present to Customs and MAF. How international container shipping costs are calculated.

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    I received three quotes within a couple of days. All were about half the price of the big named moving company that had previously quoted me.


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    The company was easy to deal with. Booked our service without any issues and collection was on time.


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