Requirements and powers around aircraft

New Zealand legislation grants health officers a range of powers relating to arriving international aircraft. The key provisions from the Health Act 1956 and the Health (Quarantine) Regulations 1983 are summarised below.

For more information on border health legislative controls, go to Key border health/quarantine provisions in Parts 3 and 4 of the Health Act.

Aircraft liable to quarantine

Aircraft from overseas, or from an infected place in New Zealand, are liable to quarantine (s. 96(2), Health Act 1956) until pratique (permission to disembark and commence operations) is granted by authorities (s. 98(1), Health Act 1956).

These provisions ensure that all incoming international flights can be held if necessary, regardless of their point of origin or type of flight.  If there is a risk to public health the Director-General of Health or a medical officer of health can stipulate that pratique be withheld from a specific aircraft or group/category of aircraft until the risk has been managed.

Granting of pratique

The Health Act requires medical officers of health to grant pratique to arriving aircraft when they are satisfied that no quarantinable disease is on board, (s. 107(1), Health Act 1956).  However, in practice scheduled arriving international aircraft are generally exempted from having to apply for pratique, in the absence of reports of illness among crew or passengers.

Boarding, detention, and inspection of aircraft

Health officers or authorised practitioners can enter an aircraft if they have reason to believe a person has, or has recently been exposed to, a notifiable infectious disease (s. 77, Health Act 1956).

If a person has died or become ill from a quarantinable disease on an aircraft, or a death has occurred amongst birds, insects or rodents on the craft that was not from standard pest control procedures, a medical officer of health or other authorised person can require aircraft to be detained for inspection (s. 97B and 97B, Health Act 1956).

A medical officer of health or health protection officer can board an aircraft liable to quarantine to inspect it (s. 101(2), Health Act 1956).

Authorised health officials also have a generic power of entry and inspection that allows them to enter aircraft to inspect and execute thereon any works authorised under the Health Act (s. 128, Health Act 1956).

Require steps to be taken

If a medical officer of health or health protection officer reasonably believes an arriving aircraft has a person on board with a quarantinable disease, or one has been exposed to such in the last 14 days, they can require the captain to take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of infection (s. 97D, Health Act 1956). This includes:

  • Destroying birds, rodents or insects
  • Removing or abating conditions on the craft likely to convey infection.

Redirection of aircraft

Aircraft that arrive from overseas at a non-Customs airport can be redirected to a Customs airport if a medical officer of health or inspector of health considers that certain sanitary measures are needed for the aircraft or persons on board (Regulation 4, Health (Quarantine) Regulations 1983).

If an epidemic management notice applies, a medical officer of health can require landed aircraft to travel to another place (s.74D, Health Act 1956). 

Disinfection/fumigation of aircraft

A medical officer of health or health protection officer can require cleansing, fumigation or disinfection of an aircraft if it is in an insanitary condition, or if conditions favourable to disease breakout exist (s. 110, Health Act 1956). Powers regarding spraying of aircraft to destroy mosquitoes also apply (Regulations 6–7, Health (Quarantine) Regulations 1983).

For more information, including videos which demonstrate to airlines and disinsection applicators the different types of disinsection methods and how they must be applied, see Aircraft disinsection procedures for flights into Australia and New Zealand. (Australian Department of Agriculture).

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