Case Study

A technical challenge and award-winning design

CBN creates a new series of banknotes for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) had been using its ‘series six’ banknotes since 1999. In 2011, it recognized that it was time to upgrade the technology and security of its notes.

Following CBN’s successful partnership with the Bank of Canada in the design and manufacturing of the new Frontier Series of banknotes and recognizing CBN’s long and successful relationship supplying the new Zealand Passport, RBNZ invited CBN to participate in the tender process for the design and manufacture of its new series of banknotes. Following a rigorous scoring and evaluation process, CBN was selected as the partner for both aspects of the project.

A project like this represents substantial risk to the reputation of any central bank; a responsibility that we do not take lightly. What’s more, the RBNZ required a combination of security features that would be the first of its kind on a polymer substrate—a significant technical challenge for the CBN project team and our trusted suppliers. We worked with RBNZ to further refine the specifications, balancing security and durability with feasibility and cost. Throughout the development and testing process, we collaborated with several industry partners to get the results we needed.

Although the themes of the notes were to stay constant, the RBNZ wanted to ensure that the public would identify with the new designs and value their artistic appearance. Our task was to refresh the look and modernize the designs while emphasizing the connection with New Zealand’s bicultural heritage. In the end, we created a series of notes that include:

  • A bright, clear design that inspires national pride with visuals of important historical figures, local flora and fauna, native birds and the te reo Maori language;
  • Overt security features including a larger window, foil, brilliant colours, movement and raised ink;
  • Covert security features that allow for machine authentication of notes; and
  • Accessibility features that allow visually impaired citizens to use the notes with confidence.

The New Zealand public’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive. The Prime Minister proudly launched the new notes and the new $5 polymer note beat 150 contenders to win the International Banknote Society’s ‘Banknote of the Year Award’ in 2015.


“The culture within CBN is outstanding. Their responsiveness, professionalism, expertise and dedication have been absolutely first rate. From our point of view, the project has been an enormous success, and we’re really excited about the terrific notes that we produced together.”

Graeme Wheeler, Governor, Reserve Bank of New Zealand

New designs for the $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes

Printing 340 million banknotes over five years

Designed to function well for 10 – 15 years

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