New Zealand

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 09 October 2014.   It has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in New Zealand.

New Zealand overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in New Zealand.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • If undertaking adventure activities, make your own enquiries about safety standards and weather conditions.
  • New Zealand is subject to earthquakes and volcanic activity. Comprehensive information about what to do in an earthquake or other natural disasters is available from the New Zealand Earthquake Commission and Get ready, Get thru websites. See Additional information section.
  • Travel insurance, as well as personal injury and income protection insurance is strongly recommended for travel to New Zealand. Australian visitors can incur significant medical and travel costs or loss of income as a result of accidents in New Zealand and are not entitled to compensation for these from New Zealand’s national accident compensation scheme after return to Australia.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers and living and working overseas.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest High Commission or Consulate of New Zealand well in advance of travel, or consult the New Zealand Immigration Service for the most up to date information.

Australian citizens travelling on an Australian passport, or Australian residents who hold a current Australian resident return visa, do not need a visa or permit to visit New Zealand. However, Australians with criminal convictions or who have been deported from any country are advised to contact the nearest High Commission or Consulate of New Zealand well in advance of travel for advice on visa requirements.

New Zealand has strict quarantine regulations and instant fines are issued for failing to declare items for quarantine on arrival.

Australian citizens who hold dual Australian and New Zealand citizenship should use a current Australian passport to enter or leave Australia.

Australian passports must be valid on the day of arrival in New Zealand. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in New Zealand. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our general advice to Australian travellers.

Crime

The levels of criminal activity are similar to Australia. You should exercise caution as you would in Australia. Expensive goods left in vehicles and campervans are often targeted by thieves.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Australians are advised to take particular care when travelling by road. Ice, snow, fog and high winds can cause hazardous road conditions. Heavy rain can result in land slips across roadways. Details of road closures and warnings can be found at the New Zealand Transport Agency and New Zealand Automobile Association websites.

Roads in mountainous terrain and to most ski fields are often narrow, unpaved and may not have safety barriers. You should drive cautiously and you may need suitable 4WD vehicles or snow chains. Not all railway crossings have barriers, particularly in country areas. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Many tourists safely undertake adventure activities in New Zealand. However, many adventure tourism activities have inherent risks, and there have been a number of serious accidents involving Australians and other tourists, some resulting in deaths. Some operators have been found to be negligent. You should be aware that safety standards in New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry may differ between individual operators and may differ from those in Australia.

Travellers need to make their own careful judgements about the risks involved in individual or group activities and of the safety standards of individual operators. We strongly recommend travellers seek information from individual operators about the safety standards adhered to, whether these standards are applied across the industry and the risks involved in the activity. . If appropriate safety standards are not adhered to, or safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider. Always use available safety equipment even if the locals don't.

We recommend travellers hold travel insurance and complementary accident or income protection insurance and understand what circumstances and activities are not covered by the policies.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in New Zealand.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in New Zealand, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that may appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession and use of even small amounts of 'soft drugs' may include fines and possibly prison sentences.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Health

Australians seriously injured in accidents in New Zealand may suffer significant financial losses from loss of income or medical expenses on return to Australia. New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Act 2001 generally removes the right to sue for losses arising from personal injury sustained in accidents in New Zealand (e.g. motor vehicle or adventure sports accidents). The Act also excludes Australians from obtaining the ongoing income support provided to New Zealanders and from coverage of any medical expenses outside New Zealand. Also not covered is illness, medical evacuation following an accident, disrupted travel plans, lost deposits, assisted emergency travel home or travel for a relative to visit you. For more information visit the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) website.

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance when travelling to New Zealand. We also strongly recommend you obtain separate personal accident or income protection insurance policies that will cover lost income or medical expenses in Australia arising from accidents in New Zealand. You should understand what activities and circumstances are covered by your insurance policy.

Ensure the travel insurance covers any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities (including adventure sports / activities) are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

New Zealand and Australia are signatories to a reciprocal health care agreement. The agreement provides Australians with access to government medical facilities and care but does not provide for ongoing treatment of existing health conditions. In addition, the agreement does not cover additional accommodation costs, flights for family members or medical repatriation to Australia. The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement does not replace the need for travel insurance. See Medicare Australia's website for more information.

If you wish to be treated under the reciprocal health agreement you must advise the local medical staff and show your current Australian passport or evidence of Australian permanent residency and a valid Medicare card. Further information is available from the New Zealand Ministry of Health and Medicare Australia.

If you are intending to travel to New Zealand with medication, we recommend you consult Medicare Australia and the New Zealand Customs Service regarding their requirements.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station or on the national emergency phone number 111. Use 111 for fire and ambulance emergencies as well.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly. If you are not satisfied with their response, you can visit the New Zealand consumer affairs website to lodge a complaint, and let your travel agent know.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian High Commission

72-76 Hobson Street
Thorndon
Wellington, New Zealand
Telephone: (64-4) 473 6411
Facsimile: (64-4) 498 7103
Website: www.newzealand.highcommission.gov.au

Australian Consulate-General

Level 7, Price Waterhouse Coopers Tower
186-194 Quay Street
Auckland City, New Zealand
Telephone: (649) 921 8800
Facsimile: (649) 921 8820

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to New Zealand, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the High Commission or Consulate-General you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia. If calling from New Zealand call 0800 445 639.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Natural Disasters

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities. Ongoing updates and advice in the event of any natural disaster response will be found at the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management website.

Earthquakes

As explained on the Get ready, Get thru website, New Zealand lies along the boundary of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates and is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. There are thousands of earthquakes in New Zealand every year, but most of them are not felt because they are either small, or very deep within the earth. Each year there are about 150-200 quakes that are big enough to be felt. A large damaging earthquake could occur at any time, and can be followed by aftershocks that continue for days or weeks.

Comprehensive information about what to do in an earthquake or other natural disasters is available from the Get ready, Get thru website. In the event of an earthquake, advice provided by the Earthquake Commission includes:

Indoors
- Move no more than a few steps to a safe place, drop, cover and hold on.
- Do not attempt to run outside.
- Stay indoors until the shaking stops. Stay away from windows, chimneys, and shelves containing heavy objects.

In bed
- Hold on and stay there, and protect your head and body with a pillow and blankets.

Outdoors
- Move as short a distance as possible to find a clear spot, away from buildings, trees and power lines. Drop to the ground.

In a car
- Slow down and drive to a clear place away from buildings, trees and power lines. Stay in the car with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops.

In a lift
- Stop at the nearest floor and get out.

In the period after an earthquake, follow the directions of local authorities. Dial 111 in the event of emergency.

There is constant risk of earthquakes throughout New Zealand. See our earthquakes bulletin for more advice on travelling to and living in an earthquake-prone region.

Recent Strong/Severe Earthquake activity

2014 Wairarapa/Wellington: A magnitude 6.2 earthquake occurred in the Wairarapa region (north of Wellington) in January 2014.

2013 Seddon/Wellington earthquakes: A series of earthquakes occurred in the Wellington and Marlborough regions during July and August 2013.

2011 Christchurch earthquake: A magnitude 6.3 earthquake occurred in the Christchurch region on 22 February 2011. The impact of the earthquake on the region was widespread and severe.

Authorities have made significant progress in removing, isolating and repairing affected buildings in Christchurch. However, rebuilding will take many years. City infrastructure, including water, sewerage and transport services, is operating normally. While many affected buildings in the CBD, eastern and seaside suburbs have been removed or fenced, damaged buildings remain throughout the area. Australians should not enter or approach affected buildings and should observe any security barriers in place.

Tsunami Activity

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure. Tsunami alerts in New Zealand are issued on the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management website as well as broadcast in the New Zealand media.

Volcanic Activity

Information about volcanic activity at Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro, White Island and other sites of volcanic activity can be found on the GeoNet website. Volcanic eruptions are possible at any time and Australians visiting affected areas should monitor these websites, and ensure they are aware of the risks and what action to take in the event of an eruption.

Weather conditions

In New Zealand, weather conditions can change quickly and severe weather is sometimes experienced. Weather conditions, forecasts and warnings can be monitored at www.metservice.co.nz.

Australians climbing or hiking are strongly advised to seek up to date information on local weather forecasts and track conditions from local Department of Conservation (DOC) visitor centres. Travellers, particularly in remote areas, are often stranded and/or injured due to rapid weather changes. Particular care should be taken to avoid creeks and rivers that may be subject to flash flooding after heavy rains. Make sure you register your details and plans with a DOC Visitor Information Centre and/or advise your family and friends of your plans.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in New Zealand, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.