When most people are visiting a country, they are most concerned about immigration and customs is just an afterthought. Most people are used to walking uninterrupted down the green aisle with "nothing to declare". But don't expect this if going down under. Australia and especially New Zealand turn this on its head - customs is often the much more difficult section.
There are many reasons why New Zealand and Australia are entirely different countries, but when it comes to customs, they are very similar. There are many different reasons one should choose New Zealand or Australia over the other, but customs is not one of them.
Immigration and eGates
Immigration is almost no longer an important factor for many visitors. Generally, in New Zealand people entering with Australia, the UK, Canada, the USA, China, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Singapore can now use the eGates. Arrivals can just scan their passports and walk straight on into the country without having to talk to an immigration officer or having to get their passport stamped.
- eGates: Now Open For Many Nationalities (Especially Australia)
- Immigration: Immigration Is Not Longer An Issue For Many Arrivals In New Zealand and Australia
- Customs: Customs In These Countries Is Very Strict
The list of eligible countries on Australia's list is even longer and includes much more European, East Asian, and even a couple of Middle Eastern countries.
Why New Zealand And Australia Are Strict With Customs
While Australia is technically a continent, it is better thought of here as a very big (and isolated) island where one government has full control of every access point to that island. Both of New Zealand's and Australia's ecologies have evolved in complete isolation for millions of years and so are incredibly unique.
- Evolution: Both New Zealand and Australia Have Evolved in Isolation
The countries have extremely high levels of endemic species. The ecological balance in these island-nations is very fragile and many of the native species in New Zealand have no defense against introduced predators. Introduced plants can easily outcompete native ones and crowd them out.
It can be useful to think of these countries as in a permanent state of biological quarantine. Both countries take protecting their fragile ecological systems very seriously.
- Quarantine: Think Of Australia and New Zealand as Countries In Biological Quarantine
Customs And What To Declare
But after being greeted by one of the easiest immigration processes ever, many visitors have a very rude awakening to these countries' customs.
"Some foods, drinks, sports and outdoor equipment, and animal and plant products can carry harmful pests and diseases. If you’re unsure, declare your items when you arrive or put them in the bin, otherwise you can get a fine."
- Fun Fact: Customs Is The Oldest Government Department In New Zealand
On the airplane flying in, everyone must fill out a declaration form it is important to read this carefully and to answer truthfully as it is a legal document. It is also one that is enforced and if one is found to have answered wrongly one will like be fined hundreds of dollars.
Passenger Arrival Cards: Declaration Forms Given To Arrivals Of Australia and New Zealand (Called Incoming Passenger Card In Australia)
It is forbidden to bring in all food, fruit, and vegetables (apart from processed food like chocolate). It is possible the larvae of flies and other pests could be in them. It is always better to err on the side of caution and declare too much than too little. If in doubt, just declare.
- Legal Document: Be Careful When Filling Out The Passenger Arrival Card As it Is A Legal (and Enforced) Document
- English: The Australian IPC The Form Must Be Filled Out In English Only
One much declare all camping and hiking equipment - tents may have seeds in them. Even dirty boots must be declared. Camping and hiking equipment will likely be cleaned and disinfected (including dirty hiking boots).
Some Things To Declare (In New Zealand):
- Food: Cooked, Uncooked, Fresh, Preserved, Packaged, Or Dried
- Animal Products: Meat, Dairy, Honey, Eggs, Feathers, Shells, Insects, Etc.
- Plants: Fruit, Flowers, Seeds, Bulbs, Nuts, Wood (Including Carved Goods)
- Equipment: Used for Gardening, Fishing, Diving, Water Sports
- Other: Footwear, Tents, Camping, Hiking, Golf, Sports, Hunting Other Other Equipment
There are many other things to declare - like which countries one has been recently, if one has spent time on farms, or even if one has been in contact with animals (except for domestic cats and dogs). A full list of things can be found on the New Zealand website and the Australian website.