New Zealand Post

Say what you like about Royal Mail but they know how to deliver stuff quickly.

When they’re not on strike, that is.

It might not seem like it to us Brits but Royal Mail is the seventh most efficient postal service in the world according to Statista.com, bested only by uber organised countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan.

On the whole, domestic letters and parcels are delivered within a matter of days and although you sometimes have to deal with the odd vacuous Post Office employee, you feel you can trust the process.

Sending a package abroad from the UK is relatively straight forward. The only taxing thing is having to queue at the Post Office, usually behind a person who has 19 letters that they want to send to 16 different countries.

As long as your parcel has a surname and a legible address on the front, it’s good to go. Your customs form can be filled out with reckless abandon using generic terms like ‘toiletries’ or ‘clothing’ with your writing often reduced to a tiny scrawl as you try and fit everything in the little boxes. Hell, you could probably use a crayon and they wouldn’t care. And if you really can’t be bothered to stand behind the person with the letters, you can either use a self-service checkout-style machine in some of the larger Post Offices to print your shipping label or you can print it at home.

If you take the ‘self-service’ option and you haven’t done it right, tough. It’ll be a roll of the dice as to whether your parcel will actually reach it’s destination but honestly, Royal Mail must employ people with degrees in cryptography because nine times out of ten, it will.

So with New Zealand being the easy going country that it is, you’d think they’d have a similar relaxed attitude when it comes to posting stuff.

Wrong.

There is a phenomenon here that I like to refer to as the Kiwi Paradox. Despite New Zealanders having incredibly laid back attitudes, they are startlingly conformist when it comes to certain rules. And there are no more rules than when trying to post a parcel abroad.

We’re going to have a little role playing session here. Imagine you want to post a parcel to your family from New Zealand to the UK. Are you imagining it? Good.

Let’s start with what your items are packaged in. Using a box? Or a plain envelope? Shame on you. You should be using one of these:

Ok, now let’s look at your customs form. Written an initial instead of the recipients full name? No good, I’m afraid. You have to write the recipient’s first name in full.

Take another form and try again.

Used lower case letters? Oh dear. You have to write everything in BLOCK CAPITALS.

Take another form and try again.

Not written inside the boxes? “What boxes?”, I hear you ask. Look closer. See them? No? Try squinting.

Ah, there they are; tiny, grey, barely visible boxes.

Take another form and try again.

Used a word such as ‘toiletries’ to describe a tube of lavender hand cream? Idiot. The New Zealand Customs Officers will not accept your laziness and insist that you write down EXACTLY what is in the parcel. Even if you tick the box labelled ‘gift’ they are completely indifferent to the fact that telling the recipient exactly what they’re going to find in the their parcel goes against the fundamental principals of gift giving.

Take another form and try again.

And I do mean, take another form and try again. The Post Office staff enforce customs rules with an iron fist and won’t hesitate in asking you to re-write your customs label that you’ve spent 10 minutes going cross-eyed at in a vain attempt to squeeze your unruly handwriting into those fictious boxes.

While in the Post Office a few weeks ago, I was re-writing one of my forms on the double sided counter that customers can use for form filling or last minute address writing, when a lady opposite me leant over the partition.

“Make sure you get it right”, she whispered conspiratorially through a pretty floral face mask. “They made me write out a customs form three times the other day.”

“Really?” I asked incredulously.

“Ah yeah”, she confirmed. “Three times.”

I glanced down at my form.

“Thanks for the advice,” I said, and then sighed as I realised that in a momentary lapse of concentration, I hadn’t written the recipients full name again. Screwing up the form, I dropped into the bin conveniently located underneath the counter, noticing that it was at least half full with screwed up customs forms.

And now on to the items that you want to post.

Want to send some lovely manuka honey to your aunt? What are you thinking? Honey cannot be posted abroad, even as a gift, unless you are a registered exporter.

What about a pretty fridge magnet, the perfect palm-size souvenir?

Think again. No magnets or magnetic items can be posted from New Zealand. Even fridge magnets which barely have the strength to hold a takeaway menu on your French door Smeg, let alone interfere with the workings of a large postal scanning machine are on the prohibited list.

Oh and compasses are prohibited too because of the magnet rule. So you can forget that as a gift for your outdoor loving niece or nephew. They’ll just have to get lost – literally and figuratively.

Got a lovely vase made by a local potter that you want to send to your mum? Well, you can try. Fragile items are on the restricted list meaning that New Zealand Post will take your vase but only on the understanding that it has been packaged appropriately and can withstand a drop of 1.2 metres.

I’m not kidding. Those are the rules.

I’m sorry but what the hell do they do with these packages? Perhaps the rugby-mad New Zealand Post employees spin pass them to one another before drop-kicking them into the back of their vans. I don’t know. Bottom line is, you can put fragile stickers all over your parcel and it won’t make a blind bit of difference here. All parcels are treated the same.

As an aside, let’s briefly talk about what you can post to New Zealand from abroad. Technically, this is nothing to do with New Zealand Post and more about the unbelievably strict New Zealand customs rules but they’re definitely worth knowing because things can get really complicated here. There is an staggeringly long list of items that you cannot bring into or post to New Zealand and the customs guys and gals are incredibly efficient at rooting out contraband.

When I first came to New Zealand with my husband many years ago we arrived at Auckland airport and had just cleared customs when a biosecurity officer approach me with a beagle (or rather the beagle approached me followed by the biosecurity officer) and asked me in that ubiquitously friendly kiwi manner, if I had any fruit on me. I said that I didn’t. He then asked if I eaten a banana on the plane.

I blinked.

I had eaten a banana on the plane, finished it just before landing.

He then asked me if I had still the peel with me. I said that I left it on the plane and I then looked down at the beagle who had fixed me with an unblinking stare that suddenly made me feel very guilty.

“Can…can he smell banana on me?” I asked.

“Ah yeah,” the biosecurity officer said. “But if you’ve left the peel on the plane, we’ve got no problem here.”

He gave me a friendly smile and then walked off, the beagle still eying me suspiciously until they both rounded a corner and disappeared from sight.

That was my first taste of how strict biosecurity is here.

But I digress.

Back to posting stuff. Let’s start with the positives. Chocolates, sweets, clothes, toiletries, books and toys (make sure they don’t contain batteries) are all allowed. The rules for general food items are quite complicated. As a rule of thumb, as long as it’s not a ‘fresh’ item and it’s in the original packaging, it’s probably allowed but there are quite a few exceptions so it’s worth checking out the tool on the Ministry for Primary Industries website before you wrap anything up:

https://www.mpi.govt.nz/bring-send-to-nz/bringing-and-posting-items-to-nz/check-if-you-can-bring-or-send-an-item-to-nz/

And just in case you were thinking of sending some fish skin covered in egg powder, that’s a no from New Zealand:

Okaaaaaaay…

So on to items that you might think would be given a big green tick. Want to send a pretty straw hat to your mum for keeping that strong New Zealand sun off her head? Nope. Items made from or containing straw, wicker, rattan, bark, willow or cane are not allowed in.

Is your friend a keen gardener and you want to send some seeds of English native plants to make them feel more at home? Forget it. As I mentioned before, biosecurity is off-the-scale strict here so no seeds, plants or anything made from plant material can enter the country.

If you’re sending (or bringing in) used outdoor equipment such as hiking boots, bikes or trekking poles, they must be scrubbed to within an inch of their life to remove any traces of plant material, dirt or bugs.

Harsh? Absolutely. But this is how it is here. No ifs, no buts, no coconuts. Definitely no coconuts. Or bananas.

So back to your parcel that you want to post to the UK. Have you checked that none of your items are on the prohibited or restricted list? Are they all package correctly? Is your customs label neat and complete? Great!

Now all you have to do is whip out your wallet and expect to part with an exorbitant amount of cash to get your parcel fly-hacked onto the next airplane to your loved ones.

Of course, you could always save yourself some money and send it by boat. Just so long as you don’t mind getting all your Christmas shopping done by June…

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2 responses to “New Zealand Post”

  1. I can only feel relieved that the parcel I sent from UK arrived safely in your hands!!

    Like

  2. Great post Rebecca! Life in a different country can be challenging, even in the smallest of ways 🤣

    Like

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