A Chinese man has been handed a heavy fine after being caught trying to bring a variety of unauthorised plant seeds into New Zealand.

Kwan Sang Cheng was fined $2,500 in Manukau District Court last week and ordered to pay court costs of $132.89.

The 58-year old arrived at Auckland International Airport on a flight from Hong Kong, on July 1 this year.

He ticked 'yes' on a Passenger Arrival Card to bringing in food but 'no' to possessing any plant material.


A search of Cheng's baggage turned up a variety of bean seeds, including soybean seeds, in his jacket, said MPI communications adviser Sara Stavropoulos.

Cheng said he intended to plant them in a relative's garden in New Zealand.

He also said he knew the seeds could not be brought into the country.

Plant seeds posed a significant biosecurity risk to New Zealand's unique environment, said Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Northern Region compliance manager Greg Keys.

Passengers who wanted to bring in plant material must declare it so it could be assessed for risk, he said.

"There are biosecurity signs located around the airport, quarantine inspectors on duty, and amnesty bins are clearly visible and are provided in the passenger arrival hall for the disposal of any last minute items. So not knowing is not an excuse."

The maximum penalty for knowingly attempting to possess unauthorised goods is five years' imprisonment and/or a fine of $100,000.

Passengers could ask MPI quarantine inspectors about any items they were unsure about, Keys said.