New Zealand's New, Brighter Bank Notes

New $5 and $10 banknotes have been revealed - and the Reserve Bank says it is possible the redesign will be the last, amidst speculation of a move to cashless society.

New Zealand's banknotes are being redesigned at an additional cost of $40 million over five years, in a bid to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters.

Reserve Bank deputy governor Geoff Bascand spoke to media at the launch of the new notes in Wellington and was asked if the redesigns could be the last.

"It is possible. People are speculating and talking about becoming a cashless society, but we haven't seen it yet.

"Funnily, cash is still growing, quite rapidly. I suppose that is partly the tourism industry - people come to New Zealand and want to use cash. It is also handy and used in all sorts of ways."

The new $5 and $10 notes feature brighter colours, but the same famous faces and flora and fauna design features.

Artistic renditions of all new banknotes were released in November, but the Reserve Bank has been completing work on security features since, meaning the final versions released today are different.

The shape, size and feel of the new notes remains the same, and Sir Edmund Hillary and Kate Sheppard still take pride of place on the $5 and $10 notes respectively.

However, the new notes contain more sophisticated security features, including:

• A large clear window that contains a hologram featuring a fern, map of New Zealand, and the same bird that features on the left-hand side of the note.

• When the note is tilted a rolling bar, that changes colour, flashes across the bird. On the reverse of the note, in the same position, a similar effect can be seen in the fern window.

• If the notes are held up to the light, coloured irregular shapes on the front and back combine like puzzle pieces to show the note's denomination.

• Raised ink features on both sides of the notes, including the words "Reserve Bank of New Zealand Te Putea Matua" and "New Zealand Aotearoa".

All banknotes are being redesigned and rolled-out progressively, by denomination.

The $5 and $10 notes will be released from mid-October, with the $20, $50 and $100s likely released in April 2016.

It could be some time before people find the notes in their wallet, because $5 and $10 notes are not usually dispensed by ATMs.

The new notes, which will be called Series 7, will co-circulate with the current notes for a period of time and both sets will be legal tender.

The last banknote upgrade was in 1999. Mr Bascand said the redesigned notes would be fit-for-purpose for 10 to 15 years, and the security features would help deter counterfeiters. They are being produced by the Canadian Banknote Company.

"New Zealand's counterfeit rate is low by international standards, it is below five notes per million. But in other countries, including Australia, at times they have had quite serious counterfeiting is better to be ahead of the time."

This morning's event was attended by Prime Minister John Key who, referencing the release of four alternative flag designs at Te Papa, said, "new notes and new flags are the order of the day".

Sir Ed's son, Peter Hillary, attended the launch and commented that his father looked "as handsome as ever" on the new $5 note.