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Our plant import pipeline is broken

It’s crucial for every successful business to have a point of difference – that little advantage that competitors cannot match. For many businesses, this includes providing products no one else stocks. But in plant-related businesses like landscaping, the range of plants we can provide is severely limited by regulation restricting new plant varieties coming into New Zealand

We’re all aware of international trends in plants, and new varieties of popular plants that are bred for changing climates and modern urban and rural design. We see them tempting us online and get enquiries from willing customers, but draconian import regulations and choked quarantine capacity mean there’s little to no chance of actually getting these new plants into the ground.

NZ Plant Producers has been working with government and primary industries to drive change in this important area.

There are multiple problems – too many to cover here in full – and any solution must take biosecurity into account and protect existing plant life.

Two of the biggest problems include: outdated regulations from the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act; and a lack of quarantine space for processing new imports.

NZ Plant Producers believes the Act is a handbrake on plant innovation in New Zealand.

New Zealanders need access to new plant varieties for prosperity and wellbeing. With almost 3.5 million New Zealanders living in cities and urban areas, there is huge

demand for new indoor house plants, and smaller street tree species, which can fit into dense urban environments. There is unmet demand for new horticultural and agricultural species, which are the bedrock of tomorrow’s innovative primary industries.

Yet in the 20 years since the Act came into force, only a few applications have been approved to bring in new plants.

The high cost of applications, public hearings, and uncertainty about the Environmental Protection Agency’s and Ministry for Primary Industries’ duplicated processes have put businesses off applying.

High security quarantine space is also overbooked, with waiting lists going out to 2025 – and it’s hard to get a place in the queue against intense demand for new commercial crop varieties. And, just to rub salt into the wound, it always seems like ornamentals are last in the queue when import health standards are up for review, as commercial crops and their export-earning growers get priority.

The fact is, ornamental plants have a host of benefits for New Zealanders in their homes and environments. Import

health standards are funded by the tax-payer and should benefit New Zealanders across the board.

NZ Plant Producers will continue to advocate for a more efficient and effective plant import pipeline for ornamental and landscape plants, so our growers can access new material and genetics from overseas, and New Zealanders have more options to find plants that fit their tastes, their gardens, and their environment.

NZ Plant Producers biosecurity work benefits the landscaping industry and is funded entirely by our member businesses. To support our work, you can join as an Industry Partner. For more information go to


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