I read that New Zealand is very strict about entering the country with food and the fines are very steep. Is this just referring to bringing in fruits, vegetables, or plants? Surely it doesn't mean I can't have a bag of pretzels in my bag?
This is information from mpi.govt.nz:
"Many foods can be brought into New Zealand but all food must be declared – even if you think it is allowed. If you don't declare food you're bringing into New Zealand, you will be fined and the food will be confiscated.
Generally, MPI officials at the border will allow in most food that is commercially prepared and packaged, shelf-stable, unopened."
The MPI website has helpful information you might want to check out. You will need to click on BioSecurity New Zealand and then scroll down to "Arriving in New Zealand." We also had to declare any wood products. I had purchased a small painting with a wood frame in Australia. I declared it, was asked about it, but had no problems bringing it into the country. At the time we went, our tour director said fines were $400 so if in doubt - declare it. Australia/New Zealand was one of our favorite trips - enjoy!!
Our TD (who may have been the same as cvc's) told us that he had recently had a guest who was fined $400 for failure to declare some food. You cannot have a bag of pretzels in your bag if you don't declare them. Don't take any chances -- even with breath mints. Better to declare them. NZ does not fool around. Those concerns aside, this was my favorite trip. You'll have a great time.
I agree. I had a baggie with cough drops, wrapped chocolates and a couple of granola bars, which I declared. No problem. I also declared as medicine the vitamins I had with me. They were most interested in looking at the soles of my shoes, which I had carefully wiped clean of the red dirt from the Outback.