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NZ banknotes awarded for design and security

FEATURES: NZ Security, June 2016

Canadian made new NZ five dollar note a winnerCanadian made new NZ five dollar note a winner


New Zealand’s new five-dollar note - featuring a range of new and enhanced security features – has won the International Bank Note Society's prestigious banknote of the year award. The award recognises outstanding achievement in the design, technical sophistication and security of a banknote or banknote series.

Twenty banknotes from around the world were nominated for the award, and the winner was voted by IBNS members. The IBNS says New Zealand’s $5 note was the competition’s “clear winner”, with Sweden’s 20 Kronor note, Russia’s 100 Ruble note, Kazakhstan’s 20,000 Tenge note and Scotland’s (Clydesdale Bank) 5 Pound polymer note voted the runners-up.

Reserve Bank of New Zealand Deputy Governor Geoff Bascand says the award is testament to the hard work and innovation by RBNZ and its partners that went into developing the note. The upgraded $5 and $10 bills went into circulation in October last year, packed with security features designed to make spotting fraudulent banknotes easier than before and to maintain NZ’s strong track record against counterfeiting.

“We are proud of all of New Zealand’s new banknotes, but to have our $5 note recognised internationally is very special,” said Mr Bascand. “The note incorporates some of the world’s most advanced security features, yet still beautifully showcases New Zealand’s history, culture and heritage.”

Although it is a New Zealand note, it was actually designed and printed by the Canadian Banknote Company (CBN). Established in 1897 to supply security-printed products to the Canadian government, CBN manufactures a range of documents and systems that are common targets of counterfeiters and fraudsters, including currency, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, Id cards, passports, postage stamps and lottery systems.

In recent years, CBN has also supplied machine readable passports used within Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. The CARICOM common passport regime has been lauded as promoting easy travel within the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Since New Zealand’s current banknotes were first issued in 1999, security features and the technology for designing and printing banknotes have all advanced considerably. And while counterfeiting rates here in New Zealand are low compared to the rest of the world, the Reserve Banks stresses the need to stay one step ahead of the game.

To give industry time to prepare for the new banknotes, they have been rolled out in two phases: (i) $5 and $10 notes were released from October 2015; and (ii) $20, $50 and $100 notes were released from April. As the existing notes pass through the cash handling process, they will be replaced with the new series. RBNZ anticipates it will take up to 18 months for all of the existing series to be rotated out of circulation.

The new notes bring with them a number of new and updated features that will help people identify legitimate notes, including:

  • A larger clear window features a more detailed holographic metallic element
  • The native bird icon changes colour as the note is tilted, and a ‘rolling bar’ can be seen moving through the space
  • A small ‘puzzle number’ lines up to form a numeral when the note is held up to the light
  • Raised ink is still used on the large denomination number.

On its ‘Brighter Money’ website, the RBNZ provides guidance on what to do if you’ve been handed a note you think does not have all the security features. The Bank says it’s important to avoid handling it (so the police can trace the counterfeiter). “Either refuse to accept the note or store it in a bag or envelope, then inform the police immediately.”

The RBNZ suggests the following steps when dealing with a suspicious note:

  • Make sure you are familiar with the security features. It’s easy to quickly check the colour changing features in the windows when accepting a banknote.
  • If you are a cash handler, make sure you are familiar with your company’s procedures for handling suspect and counterfeit banknotes.
  • Please check all notes that you receive.
  • If you suspect a note may be counterfeit, compare it with a genuine one. Use the RBNZ’s guide for checking your banknotes if you need help. Make sure you are familiar with the security features of the previous polymer banknotes.
  • If you haven’t accepted the banknote yet, politely refuse to accept it.
  • Under no circumstances should you take actions that may jeopardise your safety or that of others.
  • Report to the Police that someone potentially attempted to pass a counterfeit note.
  • If you are in possession of a suspect note, store the note safely and handle it as little as possible. Note all relevant details such as date, time and place of receipt, car registration number and whether you have CCTV.
  • Please hand suspect notes to the Police as soon as possible.

For further information, contact the RBNZ at or visit their website:

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