The Reserve Bank is the sole supplier of New Zealand banknotes. We act as a wholesale distributor to the trading banks, and manage the design and manufacturing of the banknotes.
New Zealand has five denominations of banknotes in circulation: $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.
New Zealand’s banknotes are printed on polymer, which is a type of polypropylene plastic.
The Reserve Bank began circulating polymer banknotes in May 1999. Until then, New Zealand’s banknotes were printed on paper made from cotton.
The main reasons to change to polymer were:
The design of the polymer notes changed slightly to incorporate new security features, but the size and colours stayed the same as the paper note.
Disposal of polymer notes is more environmentally friendly. Polymer notes are destroyed by being shredded. The shredded notes could be recycled into other plastic products instead of being buried or burnt.
The planning, printing and production of the New Zealand banknotes is a very complex business, employing many skilled operators for many years before the banknotes are issued. The process can generally involve the following stages.
Banknotes incorporate a range of security features to protect against counterfeiting, and new features are constantly being developed.
The current New Zealand banknotes contain a range of security features. There are two transparent windows – a transparent fern on the left-hand side of the note and an ovoid shape with the denomination of the note etched on the window on the right-hand side. These two windows make it very difficult to counterfeit the note.
Other security features include:
How to spot a counterfeit (PDF 278KB)
Information on how to tell if a note is genuine can be found in our: “How to spot a counterfeit”guide.
Banknote design requires very specific technical knowledge in a range of areas, including aesthetics, printing techniques, security features and banknote equipment requirements.
The Reserve Bank makes initial decisions about the colour, wording and sizes of each denomination. Copyright for the portraits and images used on the banknotes is also obtained or renewed.
Designers then draw up rough designs to incorporate the various features of the note, including the:
Once these features are agreed upon, the selected designer produces a picture of the front and back of each denomination. These pictures are produced in the correct size and colours with the aid of a computer-based design system. This picture must also satisfy printing capabilities and security requirements against forgery.
These banknote designs are assessed by a range of people, including security experts, banknote equipment manufacturers and design, history and cultural experts, to ensure they enhance security, are aesthetically pleasing and reflect New Zealand culture and history.
Further adjustments are made to the design, then the final picture is sent back to the Reserve Bank Governor for approval.
New Zealand’s polymer banknotes are produced by Note Print Australia Limited in Melbourne. The substrate plastic is a multi-layered structure, which comprises a core layer of polymer film. It arrives as a large roll of clear plastic film, and is then processed through the following steps:
The notes are thoroughly tested before they are introduced into circulation.
The Reserve Bank is not making significant changes to the overall design themes of the notes themselves. This includes continuing to use the five respected individuals and the fauna and flora currently depicted on our notes.
Use the following forms if you have old money that is no longer ‘legal tender’. You will need to print them out to complete.