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Care Packages: Restrictions on Imports and Courier Packages into New Zealand


Receive presents from home!

When you are away from home for a year, there might be a point where you need your family and friends to send some emergency supplies. It could be your lucky draws, socks, Christmas presents or whatever. However, Customs works hard to protect New Zealand’s ecosystem and economy, so there are a few restrictions and prohibitions when sending packages by post into New Zealand. It will be useful for your family and friends should know these restrictions before sending your care package to avoid delays or even charges!

Restricted items to send to New Zealand

This guide will give you an outline of what not to send to New Zealand by post. This includes:

  • Agricultural items like food, animals and plants.
  • Medicines.
  • Firearms and weapons.
  • Objectional material.
  • Money.
  • Commercial goods.
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Sending parcels to New Zealand

There is an extensive list of goods that are prohibited or restricted in New Zealand. See the list of these items below. If a restricted item is sent, there could be a delay of delivery due to a Customs inspection or a charge to the goods. Charges may occur if Customs needs to inspect the parcel, which requires the work of Customs or the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). Another reason your parcel could receive a charge is if it is stopped for the payment of Duties or Goods and Services Tax (GST). New Zealand Post will send you a letter of the payment required.

When sending goods to New Zealand, the postal service your friend or family use will supply you with a short form, which sticks to the parcel. This is to declare what is in the parcel and the value of the goods.


Agricultural items

There are prohibitions and restrictions on all food, plants, animals… basically, anything that is or was once alive! The reason being that agricultural items can carry pests or diseases that could seriously damage the environment. For example, diseases could wipe out a plant species and pests can kill native animals.

Some food can be sent to New Zealand but it will have to pass biosecurity clearance and food safety clearances.

Although the list is extensive to what you cannot import into New Zealand, here is a summary list of restrictions and prohibitions. After all, are your family really going to send you animal poo, live or dead animals and whale products (all items included on the full list)? We hope not.

  • Food (fruit, vegetable, meat, fish, poultry, honey, cooking ingredients and dairy products).
  • Plants (dead or alive) and seeds.
  • Tobacco and chewing tobacco.
  • Wooden items or anything made out of wood.
  • Traditional/herbal medicines.
  • Anything that has come in contact with soil, sand, clay and earth. For example, used footwear, sports gear and outdoor equipment.



For economy reasons and the difference in health care standards between New Zealand and other countries there is a restriction on medicines. Medicines can only be imported into New Zealand if there is a “reasonable excuse” approved by Medsafe.

“Reasonable excuses” can be an original letter or prescription from a New Zealand authorised prescriber. Medicines containing controlled drugs, such as cannabis and cocaine, cannot be imported at all.

Only three months supply of medicine can be imported, with the exception of oral contraceptives, which is six months supply.


Firearms and weapons

We like to think that you are not getting your family to send you weapons while you are on your gap year. But just so you know, if you are already in New Zealand and you want firearms to be sent to you, you will need a New Zealand firearms licence and a Permit to Import. If you fail to do this, your firearms will be destroyed.

Flick knives, butterfly knives, swordsticks, knuckle-dusters, and weapons disguised as something else are also prohibited.

In fact, explosives should be avoided all together!


Objectional material

Objectional material means anything that could be harmful to the public like material that deals with sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence. This includes movies, videos, video games, DVDs, CDs, books, posters, music, magazines, photographs, paintings, t-shirts and computer files.



It is illegal to send cash in the post internationally (and nationally in most countries). But don’t worry, if you run out of money while travelling, it is safer (and legal) to do bank transfers.


Commercial Goods

Commercial goods are any items that are intended to be used for commercial or business application, gift, exchange or sell. An import clearance is undertaken by Customs and the Ministry of Primary Industries, which includes the seeing if the goods are subject to duty and GST and risk screening such as biosecurity.

To make sure your goods go through clearance, you can:

  • Make sure the supplier arranges boarder clearance.
  • If using an agent, make sure boarder clearance is part of their service.
  • Or, clear the goods yourself online at Trade Single Window.

All in all, this is an unlikely circumstance when you are backpacking in New Zealand.

Parcels leaving New Zealand

Perhaps you want to send some gifts to your family and friends?

That’s cool, as long as it is not valued over NZ$1000 where export entry must be issued by Customs. If the goods are NZ$1000 for more, it is better to organise the issue by Customs before posting the parcel to avoid delays, which you can do with NZ Post.

But with a backpacker budget, it might be better to send some cheaper and lighter gifts back home. Find some inspiration here: 11 New Zealand Souvenirs for Your Friends and Family.

Flying Kiwi
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