Authorities are warning online shoppers to be vigilant after an Auckland man found an open packet of Chinese strawberry seeds in a parcel of shoes.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, ordered the pair of leather shoes from the shopping app 'Wish' in December.
But when they arrived on Friday, he was shocked to find an open paper packet of strawberry seeds, which had spread all throughout the package.
"I knew instantly it was a biosecurity risk, so I put the package in the corner of my room to keep it contained and contacted MPI straight away," he told Newshub.
The Ministry for Primary Industries says he did the right thing.
"While we have a really robust biosecurity system in place at our borders, that extra layer of protection from a vigilant public is really invaluable to us," MPI northern cargo manager Stuart Rawnsley says.
"Many seeds can be weeds or carry diseases that, if planted and grown out, can infect other plants in New Zealand, and those weeds or diseases we might not have here.
"We're always very concerned about seeds coming across the border."
Mr Rawnsley says it is important people don’t just ignore or chuck out suspicious items they find in parcels sent from overseas.
"If certain plant and animal matter goes into our landfills, then the risk potentially isn't dealt with properly.
"MPI can ensure these goods are destroyed in a manner that reduces the threat to zero."
The offending parcel of shoes has now been disposed of by MPI, and Mr Rawnsley is urging anyone else who finds seeds or suspicious items to contact biosecurity immediately.
"New Zealanders are really high users per capita of international e-commerce sites, in particular the Chinese ones," he says.
"We buy four times as many products per capita than Australians do, and it's something that is becoming more and more of an issue for our border agencies."
Wish has issued the affected customer a full refund. In an email, the company said it was sorry to hear he'd received damaged shoes.
It said stores typically pack items carefully, although "it’s possible something may have occurred during shipment".
It also urged him to rate the product and the store he purchased it from.
Wish has yet to respond to Newshub’s request for comment.
The Auckland man says he's happy the money was quickly refunded by the company.
"I don’t think I’ll be buying anything off there again though," he says.
To report exotic pests and diseases, contact MPI on 0800 80 99 66 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.