Operating a place of first arrival

Airports and seaports must meet certain requirements to operate as approved places of first arrival. Find out the requirements, what happens if you don't meet them, and how to manage approvals.


Find out the requirements

To maintain approval to operate a port (airport or seaport) as a place of first arrival, the port must meet specific requirements outlined in the MPI Standard for places of first arrival (PoFA). The guidance document for the standard lists the requirements for specific types of ports in schedule 1.he 

All places of first arrival require:

  • an approved operator
  • a biosecurity control area for processing passengers and their baggage
  • appropriate biosecurity signage
  • arrangements for pest and weed management
  • a system to notify MPI about arrival of craft and cargo, and their planned movements once in New Zealand
  • contingency plans for unexpected events
  • a security system to control cleared and uncleared cargo and passengers
  • biosecurity training and communications
  • documentation of all requirements.

Depending on the craft and cargo type, places of first arrival may need:

  • a quarantine area to unload bulk cargo
  • suitable facilities for particular uncleared risk goods (such as ramp areas for inspection of vehicles and machinery).

What else?

Approved places of first arrival (and related facilities) may have to meet other MPI requirements, depending on the type of port and its activities. For example, operators need to be aware of biosecurity requirements met by third parties (such as livestock facilities at a port) that the operator relies on. These are outlined in facility standards, import health standards and craft risk management standards.

Find requirements for:

Keep an up-to-date operating manual

Place of first arrival operators must keep an up-to-date operating manual that documents their biosecurity management system and other requirements.

Operating manual guidance

MPI has templates and checklists to help prepare a PoFA operating manual. Use the relevant checklist to make sure your manual includes all the requirements.

Biosecurity control area manual

In some cases, MPI may ask a place of first arrival operator to prepare a separate biosecurity control area manual. Use MPI's template manual to make sure you include all the requirements. Your MPI inspector will provide more information, if required.

Check additional facility arrangements

Places of first arrival (PoFA) require access to additional facilities which may be provided by the port or by other organisations (under third-party arrangements). Additional facility arrangements must be listed in the operating manual, regardless of whether they are provided by the PoFA or a third party. PoFA operators can't receive the craft or cargo type that an additional facility is responsible for, if the other facility doesn't meet requirements.

Facility requirements for approved PoFAs
 Seaport requirements Airport requirements
Transitional facility for holding uncleared goods Arrangements for holding uncleared goods (can be within the PoFA)
Biosecurity refuse facility Biosecurity refuse facility
Decontamination facility for containers Contingency arrangements to decontaminate highly contaminated air containers (can be within the PoFA)
Treatment facility Treatment facility

MPI approves transitional and treatment facilities under a separate process from PoFA approvals.

Guidance on other required facilities

Schedule 1 of the guidance document for the PoFA standard lists other facilities that may be required, depending on the cargo the PoFA receives.

Prepare for regular assessment by MPI

MPI regularly assesses PoFA facilities, arrangements, and systems to make sure they are compliant. You will be contacted by your local MPI inspector when your port is due for assessment. To prepare for an assessment:

  • update your operating manual (with biosecurity management system)
  • use the appropriate PoFA assessment checklist to make sure it meets all requirements
  • ensure staff training requirements are being met
  • send your updated operating manual to your local MPI inspector.

Find your local MPI office or inspector
Airport PoFA assessment checklist [PDF, 459 KB]
Seaport PoFA assessment checklist [PDF, 222 KB]

Fees and charges

Fees and charges apply for PoFA assessments.

What does the assessment involve?

After receiving your operating manual, the MPI inspector will arrange an assessment. During the assessment, MPI will:

  • review your operating manual
  • review previous port activity and compliance
  • contact you to arrange an on-site assessment (including talking to staff and reviewing documentation)
  • follow up on any non-compliance issues found during the assessment
  • let you know the outcome of the assessment – you'll be sent a certificate of approval if your place of first arrival passes.

If your PoFA doesn't comply

If assessment shows your place of first arrival doesn't comply or parts of it don't comply (including third parties) the MPI inspector will ask you (and any third parties) to fix problem areas by a specified date.

Ongoing or serious non-compliance can result in a changed, suspended, or cancelled PoFA approval for the craft or cargo types that don't comply.

How often are PoFAs assessed?

PoFAs are initially assessed once a year but non-compliant PoFAs may be assessed more frequently.

PoFAs that are consistently compliant can be assessed every 18 months.

Ensure port is approved

Aircraft and vessels coming to New Zealand must arrive at a PoFA approved for the craft and cargo type. You could be fined if you allow arrivals at a port that:

  • hasn't been approved as a PoFA
  • has a PoFA approval that doesn't cover the type of craft or cargo entering the port.

Find out more

Complete operator training

PoFA operators should complete a transitional facility operator training course. The course focuses on the biosecurity responsibilities of operators and their role in managing a facility.

For information on locations and dates of training courses contact one of the approved training providers.

Resources to keep staff informed

Make sure port staff are aware of biosecurity requirements. MPI's biosecurity presentations and other resources can be used to support training of port staff and third-party operators.

We provide regular updates for operators and staff on pests and diseases, and facility requirements – including through our See, Contain, Report newsletter.

Manage your approvals

You can apply to MPI to change, re-establish or cancel a place of first arrival (PoFA) approval.

If you want to change or re-establish a PoFA approval, you may need to provide evidence with your application that you meet other agency requirements (such as Customs, transport, health, and resource consent requirements). Ask your local MPI inspector before you apply.

Other agency websites

Change a PoFA approval

You must apply for a variation of your PoFA approval to change:

  • the types of craft or cargo (passengers and goods) being imported
  • the volumes of craft or goods being imported
  • facilities and systems
  • third-party arrangements
  • operator details.

To apply for a variation you'll need to provide MPI with:

  • a completed PoFA Variation application form
  • written approval for the proposed changes from your local MPI inspector.

Download the PoFA Variation application form [DOC, 106 KB]

Email documentation to standards@mpi.govt.nz

Don't make any changes until you receive written approval from MPI.

Change a biosecurity control area

To change a biosecurity control area (including the operator, location, floor layout or plan) you will need to provide MPI with:

  • a completed PoFA Variation application form
  • a reason for the variation
  • a current map of the proposed biosecurity control area (detail of building and location within the port)
  • written approval of the local MPI inspector for the proposed changes
  • an updated biosecurity control area manual (if required by MPI).

Email to standards@mpi.govt.nz

Don't make any changes until you receive written approval from MPI.

Re-establish a PoFA approval

If your PoFA isn't operational in the year following approval, you'll need to re-establish approval.

Apply to re-establish approval by contacting your local MPI inspector for an assessment of the port.

Cancel a PoFA approval

If you want to cancel your PoFA approval, email your request to standards@mpi.govt.nz

If a PoFA isn't operational for 12 months, you can choose to suspend or cancel your approval.

Who to contact

If you have questions about PoFA approvals or responsibilities contact your local MPI inspector.

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