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Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

Very strict restrictions are imposed on the import of live animals, foodstuffs and products presenting a contamination risk. To import these products, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries must always be consulted beforehand. In some cases, it may be necessary to contact the Ministry of Health.
The basic law is given in the Customs Act of 1966. Legislation of import documents is not demanded.


Customs duties
The customs duties ad valorem duties, calculated on the FOB value or on specific duties. These are not excessively high and they give an average level of 12%. Higher duties, however, are levied on textile, clothing, shoes, motor cars and pneumatics imports. No duty is imposed on imported products having no local equivalent in New Zealand. Some imports are cheap and are subject to a special duty for the protection of the local production. New Zealand applies preferential tariffs to imports coming from Australia (zero tariff), Canada, UK, and certain other developing countries. New Zealand follows the nomenclature of the Harmonised System.




An import company will use the services of an agent, a distributor-importer, or will sell directly its production or services. Using agents enables to sell a huge variety of products and to take the customer's needs into consideration. Sales are carried out through wholesalers and retailers. The concept of direct purchase is well established, in New Zealand. Agents and importers/distributors networks are known for their technique, service, their after-sale service and other useful services for the manufacturer.
A large number of foreign companies' subsidiaries directly import from their parent company and then distribute their products, or complete their local production.
Franchising is a recent concept experiencing a growing success in New Zealand.


Transportation of goods

By road
New Zealand's road network extends over 10,453 km of highways and main roads, 66,137 km of secondary roads and 15,286 km of urban roads. In general, the quality of the roads, even in rural areas with low population density, is at a high level. This is explained by the fact that investments in road infrastructures are the highest in the field transport.

By rail
The railway transport network spreads over 3,973 km and the same is operated by a private company called Tranz Rail.

By sea
Due the isolated character of this country, maritime transport systems are very well developed. More than 99% of the volume and more than 85% of the value of exports and imports in New Zealand take place by means of maritime transport. Even though there are 35 ports distributed over the entire coast, the most important part of maritime navigation is confined to a small number of them : Auckland, Tauranga, Whangarei... The use of containers is increasingly frequent for goods transport to the great commercial gateways. The transit of a container between the Mediterranean Sea and New Zealand requires nearly six weeks.

By air
New Zealand is one of the countries in the world where air transport is the most developed, proportionately to the number of inhabitants. This country has a large and efficient network of airlines. There are three international airports : Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.


The standards in New Zealand are copied from those prevailing in Great Britain. The Standard Association of New Zealand is competent in the field of standards.

Patents and brands

In accordance with the Patents Act of 1953, a patent can be requested for the protection of inventions and discoveries. In order to obtain such a patent, it is obviously essential that there is some evidence of discovery. The application must be addressed to the Patents Office. A decision is normally communicated within two years following the registration of the application. In principle, a patent gives protection for sixteen years.
Commercial trademarks can be registered on the basis of Trademarks Act of 1953. The Nice Agreement" and the International Classifications of Goods and Services" constitute the two bases of classification in New Zealand although the country has not ratified this convention.
The registration of copyright is not obligatory in New Zealand. The Copyrights Act of 1962 was amended to protect international designs, that is to say, the projects without any special aesthetic or artistic value. Copyrights registered by the author who is still alive are valid for more than 50 years.

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Patent Patents Act 1953 20 years :
Trademark Trade Marks Act 2002 10 years, renewable for further 10-year periods :
Design Designs Act 1953 5 years, renewable for two further 5-year periods :


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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