The NZ National Eye Bank’s mission is to restore sight through transplants. Since its inception in 1991, the New Zealand National Eye Bank (NZNEB) has not only served the community by providing eye tissues for transplantation but also non-transplantable eye tissues for research into blindness prevention.

Over 350 corneas are typically transplanted annually, but due to the COVID backlog, as many as 450 cornea transplantations per year are needed for a few years.

Unfortunately, presently the number of local eye donors is extremely low, and we all need to encourage greater awareness of eye donation in New Zealand.

Ultimately, if it were not for the provision of tissue for corneal transplantation several thousand Kiwis would be blind! Therefore, if anyone is in doubt about the gift of donating their eyes after death, simply stated; your kind donation can make the blind see!

Professor Charles McGhee

Scientific Director & Chair NZNEB


Statistics & Challenges

Unfortunately, the number of eye donors in New Zealand is very LOW, with over 50% of donors from Australia. We now rely heavily on Australia (Figure 1) to provide corneas but the quantity is not guaranteed because it depends on the number of donors available in Australia, which has also reduced since COVID 19. Wait times for transplants in NZ average 2-3 years or even longer. Most waitlisted individuals are under 40, a critical stage in life.

Eye Donation Facts

  • Eye donation is the precious gift of sight. You can choose to donate your eyes after you pass away.
  • Corneal transplant is the last hope for people with cornea blindness. This sight-saving operation is only possible because someone chose to donate their eyes after their death. ONE EYE DONOR CAN HELP UP TO FOUR PEOPLE.
  • Eye donation does not change the appearance or affect funeral arrangements. The process takes about 30-45 minutes.
  • The cornea is a transparent “window” at the front of the eye. It must be transparent and regular in shape to focus light correctly.

Who can donate?

  • The good news is that almost everyone can donate their eyes after their death.
  • Eye donors can have different eye colours, blood types, and levels of eyesight.
  • Most health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes do not prevent eye donation. Cataracts, glaucoma, or LASIK surgery are not obstacles.
  • Donor age is not as important as it is for other organs or tissues.

How do I become an eye donor?

  • The most important step is discussing your wishes with your closest family or friends (your ‘next-of-kin’). Without their consent, no donation will occur. Talking to them in advance will help prepare them for this process.
  • Being listed as a donor on your driver’s license does not mean you will automatically become a donor after your death.
  • For the eye donation to happen the Eye Bank needs to be notified as soon as possible after your death by hospital staff , GP, funeral director, family, or a referring donor agency.

If you would like to find out more contact the Eye Bank 0800 373 7537 (24 hours) or email:




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