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In New Zealand, you do not need a specific business licence to start a new business. However, there may be various registration requirements depending on your business structure. You will also need to let Inland Revenue know if you start a new business and inform them of any changing tax statuses. Furthermore, depending on the business you run and the industry you trade in, there may be specific licences or certificates you need to get for certain activities. This article will provide a brief guideline for what you should do if you want to set up a new business in NZ and go over some licences you may need for particular business activities.

Starting a Business in NZ

Setting up a new business can be a relatively straightforward process that will vary in difficulty depending on your business structure and the kind of activities you want to do. Generally, you should complete the following steps when starting a new business in NZ:

Coming Up With an Idea

First, you need a viable idea for your business. Find a product or service you can provide that you think would be a profitable venture. For example, this could range from selling your homemade products online to starting a bakery.

Researching the Market

Find out whether there is a gap in the market your business can fill or a need that you think you can meet. For instance, analyse your potential competitors, and identify what customer groups or demographics you want to target.

Developing a Plan

Every business should have a business plan that outlines its long-term profitability and also its strategies for staying afloat. This will summarise any market research you have done as well.

Choosing a Name & Brand

Choose unique branding for your business. It should be something your customers can identify as belonging to your brand. For instance, this can include your business name, slogan, or logo. If viable, you should look into intellectual property protections as well.

Choosing a Structure

Businesses in NZ are usually one of three structures – sole traders, partnerships, or companies, and your legal obligations will vary depending on the structure you choose. If you want to start a company, you need to register with the Companies Office.

Registering for an NZBN

A New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) is a national and unique identifier for your business, which any business entity can apply for. This number links to your core business information and anyone who engages with you can also look up and find this important data.

Complying with Regulations

Your new business will have recordkeeping and annual tax obligations that you need to meet, as well as industry-specific laws. For example, if you sell goods to consumers, you need to comply with consumer law.

What Business Activities Need a Licence?

Some industries will require a licence or certificate to set up a business within those areas. These include:

  • private investigation/security work;
  • pawnbrokers;
  • selling alcohol; and
  • operating a brothel.

You may also need to gain certification if you want to engage in specific types of one-off activities for your business, such as filming in certain locations or putting up advertising signage. This can vary depending on your city council’s rules, so be sure to check any resources that your local authorities provide.

Listed below are some licences or certification that your business may need, depending on what your business does.

Selling Alcohol

If you want to sell alcohol at your business, you will need to get a licence and pay any relevant fees. There are four kinds of alcohol licences:

  • on-licence, for selling alcohol that is consumed on the premises;
  • off-licence, for selling alcohol that is consumed off the premises;
  • club licence, for selling alcohol at a club for its members; and
  • special licence, a one-off licence for serving alcohol at special events.

For instance, your employees may need specific qualifications as well, such as a manager’s certificate.

Food Handling

If you want to sell food in NZ legally, you need to register your food business with a verified food plan. This food plan is a framework for handling food safely and also for ensuring integrity and quality for your customers. To sell food, you will need to register with your local council or the Ministry of Primary Industries. For instance, you need to:

  • identify what kind of food plan you need;
  • create your plan;
  • have an independent verifier verify your plan; and
  • apply to your relevant registering authority.

Depending on your business location, you may also need to apply for resource consent and an outdoor dining licence. Fees will also apply.

Health Licensing

Depending on your local council’s regulations, you may need a health licence if you operate any of the following businesses:

  • hairdressers;
  • funeral homes;
  • camping grounds; 
  • kennels; or
  • catteries.

This is to certify that your business is operating at an appropriate health standard and also that the services you provide are safe and in line with local regulations.

You will likely need to renew any health licenses regularly. Check your local council for advice on how often to renew your license.

Key Takeaways

You do not need a standalone business licence to operate in New Zealand. However, you will need to apply for the appropriate licences or certification that your business type or industry requires. This can vary depending on your local council, so be sure to check their resources. If you would like more information or help with your business’s licences, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a business licence in NZ?

You do not need a business licence to start a business in NZ. However, you may need to register your business, depending on its structure.

What licences does my business need?

The licences your business needs will depend on your business activities. For example, if you want to serve alcohol, you will need an alcohol licence.

What is the difference between an on-licence and an off-licence?

These are both alcohol licences. An on-licence refers to a licence for selling alcohol consumed on the premises. An off-licence is a licence for selling alcohol consumed off the premises.

What is an NZBN?

NZBN stands for New Zealand Business Number. This unique number identifies your business, attached to core business data that others can find you with.

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