Shipping To New Zealand – Practical Tips To Save Time & Money
Shipping Your Stuff To New Zealand

Shipping Your Stuff To New Zealand

Here are a few practical tips on what to be aware of when shipping your personal effects to New Zealand.

Deciding on what exactly we should be shipping to New Zealand was one of the most difficult decisions we faced during the moving process. This was our first international move and we had never even using a moving company or specialist shipping company before so asked around for advice from friends and family and of course turned to Google for advice.

We realised that we would need to get an idea of costs first before we could decide whether we should be taking everything with us or just selected items. We could always replace our used items with new items in New Zealand if the costs of shipping outweighed the price of buying new stuff upon arrive in New Zealand.

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who happen to be flush with cash then sending your houselot of effects via airfreight isn’t going to be realistic. The reality is shipping by sea freight doesn’t take that long to get from the UK to New Zealand (it took around two months from door-to-door of our stuff to arrive).

Once you have decided whether to use air or sea freight you then need to consider if you want to have professional movers pack your effects or pursue the DIY path. One thing to keep in mind if you do decide to pack yourself is that you may struggle to get full insurance cover for your effects. This is what we found. We could not get full marine transit insurance if we packed our stuff ourselves. We were offered only ‘total loss’ cover which would not cover items if they were damaged – only our entire shipment if it was lost. In the end we decided to have the movers pack everything for us.

In order to obtain an accurate quote for shipping your furniture to New Zealand you need to prepare an inventory listing of the items you would like to ship. This allows the moving companies to calculate the volume of your shipment. It’s important to understand that international movers charge on the cubic foot volume of effects and not the weight (unless you have an air freight shipment).

Based on the inventory we submitted (530 cuft) we ended up paying £2,000 (insurance was £400) to move the items from our home in London to our new home in Auckland. This included a ‘full international packing service’ and all customs clearances. We did have to pay an ITF (Imports Transaction Fee) of NZ$65.00 when we arrived though. We were lucky that we didn’t incur any MPI (NZ Quarantine) charges can also frequently incur if MPI wish to inspect any items of interest (see below MPI guidelines for more information).

We were advised that our consignment was half a 20 foot shipping container but we opted for a shared container or groupage service as this was the most economical option and we didn’t really need our own container. It would have been quicker to have our own container but as a lot of people move from the UK to New Zealand it doesn’t take that long for most moving companies to full a shared container.

For us it made sense to ship our items as the cost of replacing the items would have been considerably more than the cost of shipping them.

We decided to avoid shipping our big bulky furniture items as these can easily be replace in New Zealand and they really add up the cost of shipping. The good thing is that there are lots of large discount furniture retailers in New Zealand that are reasonably priced.

MPI (New Zealand Quarantine) Guidelines


The following is provided by MPI and is available in PDF format on their website for download.

Border agencies

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) along with New Zealand Customs Service and the Department of Immigration, have specific requirements for people moving personal effects/household possessions to New Zealand.

The following guide is put together by MPI – please refer to New Zealand Customs and the Department of Immigration websites for further information in those areas.

The importance of biosecurity

MPI is responsible for protecting the natural resources, plants, animals and people of New Zealand from the introduction of pests and diseases. With more people than ever wanting to visit or move to New Zealand the risk of unwanted pest and disease introduction increases. Pests and diseases can cross our border in personal and household effects, so to prevent this there are strict rules about what people are allowed to send or bring to New Zealand.

MPI assess all shipments of goods coming into the country by checking documentation and, when necessary, examining the goods. If risk items are found these may be treated, reshipped, or destroyed (at the owner’s cost).

Restricted and prohibited items

Do not pack these goods as they may be seized unless accompanied by official certification:

  • Any packets of food.
  • Honey, pollen, propolis, honeycombs and other bee products.
  • Plants, bulbs, cuttings, corms, rhizomes or tubers, commercially packed seeds and seeds for planting.
  • Packaging such as straw or used fresh food cartons.
  • Items restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) such as coral, ivory, snakeskin or whale bone items, turtle shell and some sea shells.

Packing your personal effects

Strict biosecurity laws mean there are some items you cannot bring to New Zealand, and some other items will require inspection on arrival. Using a professional moving company, freight forwarder or import agent to help you move can be beneficial, as they can provide assistance with MPI requirements.

Having an accurate and easily understood manifest of your belongings will help MPI to assess these quickly when they arrive in New Zealand. By not packing some items, or packing goods that may require inspection together, you may save costs and time.

If belongings are arriving in a sea container then the container must meet the requirements of the Import Health Standard for Sea Containers.

Items that must be declared

The following items must be declared as they may require inspection and in some cases certification from the country of origin:

  • Fresh or dried fruit, vegetables, mushrooms or fungi.
  • Any meat, fish, shellfish or poultry.
  • Ingredients used in cooking, all milk products, cheese, eggs or egg products, and milk based baby foods.
  • Hunting trophies or stuffed animals.
  • Traditional or herbal medicines or remedies, health supplements and homeopathic remedies that include animal or plant products.
  • Dried flower arrangements or Christmas decorations made from plant material.
  • Items made from wood.
  • Items stuffed with seeds or straw.
  • Items made of from bamboo, cane, coconut or straw.
  • Items containing hair, fur, unprocessed wool, skin, feathers or bone.
  • All outdoor, camping, sports equipment, hiking boots and other sporting footwear that could be contaminated with soil, seeds or water.
  • Animal grooming and veterinary equipment, beekeeping equipment, saddles, bridles, bird cages and pet beds.
  • Gardening equipment and outdoor furniture.

There may be other items that you have to declare, contact us if you are unsure about something. If an item requires treatment you will have to pay for this service. Any goods that cannot be imported will be destroyed or reshipped.

Required documentation

All personal effects being shipped to New Zealand must have:

  • An unaccompanied personal baggage declaration available here.
  • A detailed inventory of goods (numbered boxes can help with this).
  • A completed sea container Quarantine Declaration (for full container loads) available here.
  • Valid treatment certificates for goods that have been fumigated, heat treated or cleaned.
  • A bill of lading, arrival notice, or air way bill.
  • Supplementary declaration: This provides more information about specific items and could change the risk status of your consignment available here.

You will be informed of any additional documentation that may be needed.

For New Zealand Customs and Immigration document requirements please refer to those agencies.

Clearance of goods

An inspector will assess documentation presented to MPI for possible risk goods.If an inspection of your personal effects is required this must be at a transitional facility and you must notify MPI of the location.

If the shipment is a full sea container load an inspection of the seacontainer is mandatory and will be carried out by an accredited person or a MPI inspector.

For more information contact MPI, your moving company, freight forwarder or customs agent. Other conditions may also apply and MPI will advise you of these at time of application. Keys may be required for any locked trunks, suitcases or vehicles.

Wood packaging

Wood packaging such as crates or pallets is subject to biosecurity requirements and must be declared.

Wood packaging must have been fumigated or heat treated before use and must be declared in the Quarantine Declaration (for full container loads) regarding container cleanliness.

Personal vehicles

Vehicles and other machinery such as jet skis, lawn mowers or chainsaws are also subject to biosecurity requirements and are inspected on arrival. Before shipping, vehicles should be cleaned thoroughly inside and out, including underneath and around the wheels and wheel arches. If steam cleaning ensure the whole vehicle including the engine is cleaned. Contaminated vehicles will be directed for treatment and re-inspection (charges apply).

For information on complying with vehicle safety regulations refer to the New Zealand Transport Agency website. For information on vehicle tax refer to New Zealand Customs Service.

Inspection and treatment charges

MPI charges are based on the number of items inspected and include a travel fee to the place of inspection. A schedule of fees is contained in the Biosecurity Costs Regulations and all importations are required to pay a Biosecurity System Entry Levy. Any charges for the treatment of goods are billed separately by the authorised treatment provider. MPI charges are separate to charges billed and services provided by your moving company, freight forwarder or customs agent.

Bringing your pets to New Zealand

The requirements for bringing pets into New Zealand depend on the type of animal, where it is from and if there is an existing import health standard for the animal. Disease concerns mean that not all types of pets are allowed into New Zealand.

For more information on bringing pets to New Zealand see this MPI guide.

Points to bear in mind when obtaining your shipping quote

First choose your shipping method. There are two methods you can decide to use to ship your most valued  possessions across the world; sea freight or air freight.

The first and more usual way is via sea and this may take a period of anything from 8-10 weeks to New Zealand as sailings are dependent upon  the natural forces and waters so you should be prepared for unavoidable  delays beyond anyone’s control.

You will also need to factor in customs clearing and MPI inspection (previously known as MAF Inspection, I’ll cover my own personal experience with MAF Inspection, later so keep reading).

Of course if you are flush with money or don’t have that much to transport then you may wish to consider the alternative, air freight option and this will usually take about a week. It is much faster but obviously much more costly.

You could also consider air shipping a couple of suitcases ahead of you. Companies such as PSS Removals do offer a great door to door service. They will deliver any cartons you need and collect the item to be shipped as well as provide you with all the necessary paperwork (yes more paperwork) if you decided to use this service. I have used them to send several tea chests to New Zealand and you can get an instant quote at their website to compare what will be the best option for you.

Which method you use depends on how many items you are taking with you. We had the contents of our three bed semi and so we needed a 20ft container which was filled to the brim. If you didn’t follow my earlier advice in this blog or simply missed out that section about de-cluttering, then, I suspect that you are now regretting this decision and are starting to sort out all your stuff and wondering how you have managed to accumulate all this stuff.

When you are obtaining quotes from shipping companies then you will need to know what you are taking and what’s staying behind. This will make a huge difference to your quote. If you’re not sure then you can ask the assessor to quote separately for additional maybe items. If you have space in the container, then it makes no difference whether you take them or not. But if you are pushed for spaced, you will have to decide what is going to stay behind.

There are a few more things worth mentioning when you are arranging your shipping abroad:-

Always obtain a written quote:

Each of the three companies, who visit you, should give you an approximate quote. When this is given, ensure that this is the total amount due and that all charges have been included. In most cases, your cost will be estimated based on the volume and weight of the shipment reached by looking at a complete inventory. This estimate could go up or down depending on how much sorting and reducing you manage to complete before the move.

Ask about the moving schedule:

Be clear about how long it may take for your goods to arrive. The assessor should be able to give you approximate shipping times to that country. Remember that if you are on a part shipment that is, if you are going to share your container With someone else, then you may have to wait for the container to fill and this will mean a further delay before your goods leave  the UK.

If you are a taking a whole container, then you will have more flexibility as once the container is loaded, it will be driven straight to the port and will be loaded and on its way as soon as the next ship is set to sail.

It will be easier to obtain an estimated time frame if you are taking a full container load as opposed to sharing a container.

Will you need storage?

If your goods are not being shipped immediately, enquire as to where they will be stored and whether this facility has security. Also, make sure that the insurance covers you from the time that your items are packed and  leave your home till it arrives at your new destination.

Protecting your items

For peace of mind you should consider insuring your shipment. This will add to the price but is not an item to be skipped. Most shipping companies should offer some form of insurance. Ideally this should be the replacement value of the goods in the currency of the country you are intending to move to. In order to work out the amount to insure your items for, you will have to calculate the value of the item. Based on this figure, the insurance charge will be at an agreed percentage of the replacement cost of the item. I personally only insured items that were of a high value and which would be costly to replace. I didn’t bother with clothing, toys, or miscellaneous items that I could easily replace. But when it came to items such as a lounge suite, washing machine, dishwasher, you don’t want to have to replace these on your own.

Work out your own basic list of essential items that you are shipping. You will have to list each of these separately for insurance purposes, so have this to hand when the assessor visits to give you your quote.

Many shipping companies offer their own in house insurance, this is not always the cheapest and you can shop around if you have the time, but for convenience I went with the companies own insurance. I also figured if there was a claim it would be easier to deal with one company than have several companies passing the buck between them. Thanks goodness I didn’t have to make any claims.

More Shipping paperwork

Customs forms are an important part of transporting your possessions overseas. Some moving companies will handle customs forms for you. When selecting a moving company enquire as to whether this will be taken care of, or whether you will have to complete the forms independently.

I completed all of the customs paperwork myself; it was fairly straightforward and much easier to avoid any complications on the other end as you can verify exactly what items you shipped.

Shipping other large items 

A frequently asked question is to do with shipping cars. Shipping a car to New Zealand, in my opinion, is a lot of hassle and is difficult. From all the advice that I read, unless your car is one that has some considerable value the cost of shipping it will be an important factor in making this decision.

I cannot offer any firsthand information on this matter, but just want to point out that New Zealand have stringent controls on items coming into the country. So, if you are bringing your car with you, as well as making sure that the car can pass all the relevant safety checks by New Zealand motoring standards it will have to go through a thorough cleaning schedule so that there is not a spot of dirt on it and definitely no mud. If this does not pass their standards, be warned that they can charge you on the other side to have the vehicle cleaned again before it even passes through to customs.

With all this red tape, it may be easier not to ship your car and just buy one when you arrive. This means that the car is already registered for the New Zealand system and this will mean less hassle in the long run.

Now, I just need to add here that cars in New Zealand are not cheap. Second hand cars seem to hold their value in New Zealand and many cars are second hand imports from Japan. This will become clear when you try to change the radio controls in these cars, you will find that the information and accompanying instructions are all in Japanese!

You will have realised by now that there are considerable costs involved with relocating yourself and your possessions from one country to another. Some countries also require you to pay duties or taxes on goods you are importing into their country. You should check beforehand, but when you are entering as a resident bringing in your own personal possessions for your personal use then this should not be an issue for you.

Our Tips For Moving Your Effects to NZ

  • Shop around! We saved a lot by comparing quotes from different movers and asked our mover of choice to match a cheaper quote we had received. Make sure both movers are quoting on the same volume though – this is really important to make sure there are no surprises on moving day. Many reputable moving companies will also offer a free home visit to estimate the volume and provide you with a more accurate quote. This is what we did.
  • Move with a FIDI accredited mover.  This ensures your mover complies with internationally recognised quality standards.
  • Read 10 Common Ways to Avoid Scam by A Relocation Company to ensure you don’t get ripped off!

Recommend UK & NZ Removal Companies

Still have questions about shipping your effects to New Zealand? Please contact us as we would love to hear from you and welcome your questions.

Leave a Comment