Novel associations between plants and pathogens can have serious impacts on managed and natural ecosystems world-wide. The introduction of alien plants increases the potential for biogeographically novel plant–pathogen associations to arise when pathogens are transmitted from native to alien plant species and vice versa. We quantified biogeographically novel associations recorded in New Zealand over the last 150 yr between plant pathogens (fungi, oomycetes and plasmodiophorids) and vascular plants. We examined the extent to which taxonomic similarity, pathogen traits, contact opportunity and sampling effort could explain the number of novel associates for host and pathogen species. Novel associations were common; approximately one-third of surveyed plants and pathogens were recorded with at least one biogeographically novel associate. Native plants had more alien pathogens than vice versa. Taxonomic similarity between the native and alien flora and the total number of recorded associations (a measure of sampling effort) best explained the number of novel associates among species. The frequency of novel associations and the importance of sampling effort as an explanatory variable emphasize the need for effective monitoring and risk assessment tools to mitigate the potential environmental and economic impact of novel pathogen associations.