What happens to used imports at the border?

With cargo and roll-on/ roll-off ships arriving into New Zealand ports each month, thousands of vehicles are unloaded and are immediately subject to Customs control and border inspection, before being transported to owners or compliance centres.

Border checks are in place to ensure that every vehicle passes through a quality-control-type process before being released onto the road. Border checks can be carried out either in NZ or, in some cases, overseas by approved vehicle inspection organisations.

If you buy a car from overseas or purchase one while you’re living abroad and want to send it back to NZ, it must meet the standards required for import into NZ, or meet the criteria for exemption. The vehicle needs to be cleaned prior to departure and licensing should also be cancelled before it ships.

Structurally sound

Damage, rust, previous repairs and modifications are all causes for concern on a vehicle imported into NZ. In cases where a vehicle’s damage is serious enough, it can be flagged at the border check and a sticker is placed on the vehicle screen indicating that a specialist repair certificate will be required before entry compliance can be completed.

This system also ensures that quality control over repairs and inspections is in place. Photos of the damaged areas on the vehicle are loaded into the system as part of the border inspection recording.

No creepy crawlies

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) needs to inspect the vehicle to make sure it is free from pests and diseases contained in soil, plants and animals, including insects and their eggs. In some cases, they may require extra cleaning to target specific areas. This service can either be  carried out overseas before shipping, or once it arrives in NZ.

In recent years, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) has had a large effect on Japanese imports, so extra fumigation is required to vehicles arriving in NZ between the months of September and April.

Important recalls 

One of the most recently added checks is for vehicle recalls. These must also be damaged flagged, with records stating “open airbag recall”, for example. This is to ensure that vehicles subject to a recall have been checked before a Warrant of Fitness (WoF) can be issued. 

At this point, vehicle information and notes like country of export, ship name, border inspection date, registration reading, and vehicle identification number are first entered into the NZ Transport system database.

Where to form here?

Once the vehicle has been released from the border check, it is free to be collected and taken for repairs or transported directly to an entry compliance centre for the final inspection. When passed, this will give the vehicle its first WoF and the MR2A form, which allows it to be licensed and be fitted with NZ number plates.