Banknote upgrade project FAQs
The Reserve Bank regularly reviews and improves New Zealand’s banknotes to take advantage of the latest security features. With technology constantly evolving, it's important our banknotes keep up, to help ensure counterfeiting levels remain low. New banknotes are being released now, and will circulate with the older notes. The older banknote designs were issued in the early 1990s, and revised slightly for the switch to a flexible polymer plastic in 1999.
Watermarks have traditionally been used on banknotes but have been overtaken by newer technology. Over the years we’ve used watermarks of King Tawhiao, Captain James Cook, and Queen Elizabeth. In the new banknotes we’ve replaced the watermarks with more secure and visible features – a transparent window that has an embossed denomination number, and several metallic and holographic illustrations included in it.
Research showed that not many New Zealanders use watermarks to check for counterfeits. The new security features that replaced the watermarks are highly visible at a glance, and so are more likely to actually be used to verify that the new notes are genuine legal tender.
We are retaining Queen Elizabeth on the new $20 and on all our coins.
The Reserve Bank does not issue or sell numismatic currency to the public. However, numismatic products for Series 7 have been sold through NZ Post. Please visit their website.
The new security features include:
- the colour-changing bird – the colour changes when the note is tilted with a rolling bar going diagonally across the bird. On the reverse of the note, in the same spot, you will see a smaller effect in the fern window.
- the transparent window and hologram –Inside the large transparent window, you will see a hologram featuring a fern and a map of New Zealand. It also contains the same bird featured on the left-hand side of the note. There’s also an embossed print denomination below the hologram
- the raised print – you can feel the raised print denominations on the front and back and you can feel the raised print in the words “Reserve Bank of New Zealand Te Putea Matua” and“New Zealand Aotearoa”.
- the puzzle number – hold the note up to the light and you will see the coloured irregular shapes on the front and the back of the note, which combine like puzzle pieces to show the note’s denomination.
The costs of regular banknote upgrades, which typically take place every 10 - 15 years, have to be balanced against increasing risks of counterfeiting as technology advances.
Of the approximately 148 million notes in circulation ($4.7 billion) we receive, process and re-issue over 140 million banknotes each year. We expect it will cost an extra $7-8 million per annum for the next five years to issue and distribute the new notes, and replace our reserve stocks.
While the cost of purchasing new notes over five years will be about $80 million, in the ordinary course of business we could have incurred costs printing the current notes. The additional costs, as a result of moving to a newer, more secure design, are about $40 million.
New Zealand banknotes incorporate very little text. However, the new notes feature additional Māori language:
- Aotearoa - the Māori name for New Zealand
- Te Pūtea Matua – the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s Maori name
- The names of the native birds on the reverse of the notes (hoiho, whio, kārearea, kōkako, mohua) will continue to be written in Māori.
Copyright and/or the necessary permissions have been obtained for all the images and portraits which Canadian Banknote Company incorporated into the design of the new banknotes.
Sir Edmund Hillary supplied his image for the Series 6 banknotes which were designed in 1999.
The Canterbury Museum licensed the portrait of Kate Sheppard on the $10, while the Alexander Turnbull Library licensed the use of the Sir Apirana Ngata portrait on the $50 and the Lord Rutherford portrait on the $100.
The portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was supplied by Buckingham Palace for use on the $20 note.
Images of the landscapes, flora and fauna featured on the notes were supplied by photographer Rob Suisted and www.rodmorris.co.nz. The image of Parliament buildings on the $20 and White Camellia (Camellia japonica alba plena) were taken by photographer Stephen A’Court. The image of the Porourangi meeting house on the $50 was supplied by Heni Tawhiwhirangi.
The Reserve Bank has been working with manufacturers of banknote equipment to ensure they are well prepared for the changes, and the transition to the new notes is as seamless as possible.
If you are a retailer with banknote equipment, please contact your supplier to ensure that they are participating in our calibration programme and check they have scheduled your machine calibrations.