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Banknote life cycle

Learn about the life cycle of our banknotes, from how they are made, sorted and circulated to what happens when they are no longer fit for circulation.

The life of a banknote

Video 2m:23s

Watch this YouTube video to find out what happens to New Zealand banknotes—how they are made, sorted and circulated, and what happens when they are no longer fit for circulation.

A four-stage process

The process of planning, printing and producing New Zealand banknotes is a complex business, employing many skilled professionals for many years before the new notes are issued. It generally incorporates four stages:

  1. Selecting and integrating security features
  2. Design
  3. Printing
  4. Recycling

Selecting and integrating security features

Banknotes use a range of security features to protect against counterfeiting. New features are constantly being developed.

The Series 7 banknotes use more sophisticated and modern security features. These include:

  • a larger window featuring a detailed metallic foil element
  • a native bird icon that changes colour as the note is tilted, and a bar is then seen moving through the shape
  • a small ‘puzzle number’ lines up when the note is held up to the light
  • raised ink used on the large denomination number.

Other security features include:

  • micro-printing
  • intricate background patterns
  • a fluorescent feature.


Banknote design requires very specific technical knowledge in a range of areas. These include aesthetics, printing techniques, security features and banknote equipment requirements.

  1. We make initial decisions about the colour, wording and sizes of each denomination based on public surveys and expert advice.
  2. Designers draw up concept designs that include the various features of the note, including aesthetics, printing techniques, security features and banknote equipment requirements.
  3. Once these features are agreed upon, the designer produces an image of the front and back of each note denomination. These images are produced in the correct size and colours using a computer-based design system.
  4. A range of people then assess the banknote draft designs including security experts, banknote equipment manufacturers and design, and history and cultural experts. This is to ensure the banknote designs improve security, are aesthetically pleasing and reflect New Zealand’s culture and history.
  5. Copyright and/or the necessary permissions are then obtained for all the images and portraits, which Canadian Banknote Company incorporates into the design of the new banknotes.

Read a Bulletin article documenting the design process for the Series 7 banknotes


Canadian Bank Note Company in Ottawa, Canada, prints New Zealand’s Series 7 banknotes. Note Print Australia Limited in Melbourne produced the earlier Series 6 polymer banknotes.


The new banknotes go through rigorous testing to ensure they are as robust, secure and durable as possible before release. This includes:

  • laboratory testing to find potential areas of weakness in the design and printing
  • testing with users to ensure the new notes can be used by businesses, retailers, banks and others users such as banknote equipment manufacturers.


In 2015, we introduced a recycling system for the old or damaged polymer notes. These notes are destroyed by being shredded and then recycled into plastic products like pot plant holders.