Pace bowler Jackson Bird will play his first test in two-and-a-half years this morning, as Australia adapt to a green Basin Reserve pitch.

Bird replaces James Pattinson in the visitors' attack. Pattinson was ruled out with shin soreness which couldn't be trusted to survive a test.

Bird has the second-most wickets in Australia's Sheffield Shield with 25 wickets at 24.28 for Tasmania, but could not make the test line-up during their home summer.

He has an average of 23.30 from three tests, and was man of the match against Sri Lanka in Sydney in January 2013 with a haul of seven for 117. His last test came at Durham during the 2013 Ashes.

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"He runs in all day and he's tall, so he hits the bat higher than you think," Australian captain Steve Smith said. "He generally hits good areas, which is important for us in this series, if the wickets do a bit.

"He's still quite young [29] and has been a quality bowler at Shield level. I saw him bowl yesterday and he's bowling with good pace and swinging the ball late."

If Australia achieve a series win, they will go to No 1 in the world at the cut-off for the International Cricket Council's annual rankings. That means a bonus of US$1 million ($1.5 million).

"Of course [it spurs us on]," Smith said. "We want to be No 1 in all formats of the game, but you have to put it in the back of your mind. New Zealand are a good side in these conditions."

Australia are ranked No 2 behind India, which guarantees a $750,000 ICC payout, but a 1-0 series loss, or a draw could see them slip to third ($300,000). A 2-0 series loss would drop them to fourth ($150,000). New Zealand can only go as high as fifth, or drop to sixth if it's drawn or worse.

Australia's financial incentive to succeed will be matched by New Zealand's determination to pay tribute to retiring captain Brendon McCullum.

The decision at the toss could prove intriguing.

With fine weather forecast, McCullum suggested the wicket will dry out quickly, leaving it excellent for batting.

"It does offer generous seam and swing for the bowlers early on," McCullum said.

"We've batted first on it before and gone on to win test matches. If you are batting first, you've just got to hang in there, trying to get a competitive score, but it's not going to be 500-600. The third and fourth innings is where things take shape."

New Zealand have been inserted in both their previous tests in Wellington and were dismissed for 221 (against Sri Lanka) and 192 (against India). They responded with declarations of 524-5 and 680-8 to win and draw those respective tests.

Smith avoided a premature call.

"There is a bit of a grass on it at this stage. I'll wait and see if there's anything different with it there. But I think traditionally the wickets here don't play as bad as they look."

Smith also has a batting duel looming with Kane Williamson.

Williamson held the No 1 test batting ranking in December, but Smith regained top spot with his feats against the West Indies. There are 10 ranking points between the duo. Last time Williamson batted in a test at the Basin Reserve, he was unbeaten on 242, his highest test score.

- Additional reporting AAP