Starting a Business in New Zealand

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Starting a Business in New Zealand

Economy of New Zealand

New Zealand has an advanced market economy, ranked 16th in the 2018 Human Development Index and third in the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom. It is a high-income economy with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of US$36,254. The currency is the New Zealand dollar, informally known as the “Kiwi dollar”.

New Zealand is a highly developed free-market economy

New Zealand’s diverse economy has a sizable service sector, accounting for 63% of all GDP activity as of 2013. Large-scale manufacturing industries include aluminium production, food processing, metal fabrication, wood and paper products. Mining, manufacturing, electricity, gas, water, and waste services accounted for 16.5% of GDP as of 2013. The primary sector continues to dominate New Zealand’s exports, despite accounting for only 6.5% of GDP as of 2013. The information technology sector is growing rapidly.

New Zealand GDP by Percentage of Economic Sectors
New Zealand GDP by Percentage of Economic Sectors

Economic Indicators

New Zealand GDP Growth Rate

New Zealand has an advanced market economy, highly dependent on international trade. The country is closely link with Australia, which is the biggest importer of “kiwi” products, supplier and investor. New Zealand’s most developed industries are focused on tourism and exports of agricultural products and are the main source of growth. Services are the biggest sector of the economy and account for 75 percent of total GDP including: finance, insurance and business services (30 percent); personal and community services (13 percent), and transport and communication (11 percent). Industry accounts for 17 percent of GDP with manufacturing constituting 13 percent and construction 4 percent. Agriculture, fishing, forestry and mining accounts for the remaining 8 percent.

New Zealand GDP Growth Rate
Source: Statistics New Zealand
New Zealand Interest Rate

In New Zealand, interest rates decisions are taken by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. The official interest rate is the Official Cash Rate (OCR). The OCR was introduced in March 1999 and is reviewed eight times a year by the Bank. The OCR influences the price of borrowing money in New Zealand and provides the Reserve Bank with a means of influencing the level of economic activity and inflation.

New Zealand Interest Rate
Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand
New Zealand Inflation Rate

The annual inflation rate in New Zealand edged down to 1.4 percent in the third quarter of 2020 from 1.5 percent in the previous period and below market expectations of a 1.7 percent increase. It was the lowest inflation rate since the first quarter of 2018, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand Inflation Rate

New Zealand Unemployment Rate

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell to 4 percent in the second quarter of 2020 from 4.2 percent in the previous period and well below market expectations of 5.8 percent. The number of unemployed people dropped by 6 thousand to 111 thousand. Meantime, the underutilisation rate rose to 12 percent from 10.4 percent in the first quarter, the largest quarterly rise since the series began in 2004, while hours worked were down by a record 10.3 percent.

New Zealand Unemplyment Rate

New Zealand Government Dept to GDP

New Zealand recorded a government debt equivalent to 19 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2018/2019 fiscal year. Generally, Government debt as a percent of GDP is used by investors to measure a country ability to make future payments on its debt, thus affecting the country borrowing costs and government bond yields.

New Zealand Government Dept to GDP
Source: New Zealand Treasury
New Zealand Balance of Trade

New Zealand is greatly dependent on international trade. New Zealand’s economy has traditionally been based on a foundation of exports from its very efficient agricultural system: dairy products, meat, forest products, fruit and beverages. New Zealand imports mainly vehicles, machinery and equipment, petroleum, electronics, plastics and aircraft. Its main trading partners are: China, Australia, the US, Japan and South Korea.

New Zealand Balance of Trade
New Zealand Balance of Trade
New Zealand Currency Dollar

The NZDUSD spot exchange rate specifies how much one currency, the NZD, is currently worth in terms of the other, the USD.

New Zealand Dollar

New Zealand Stock Market (NZX 50)

The NZX 50 is a headline stock market index which tracks the performance of 50 largest and most liquid companies by free float market capitalization, listed on the New Zealand Exchange. It is a total return, modified market capitalization weighted index.

New Zealand Stock Market

New Zealand Ease of Doing Business

New Zealand is ranked 1 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The rank of New Zealand remained unchanged at 1 in 2019 from 1 in 2018.
The Ease of doing business index ranks countries against each other based on how the regulatory environment is conducive to business operation stronger protections of property rights. Economies with a high rank (1 to 20) have simpler and more friendly regulations for businesses.

Ease of Doing Business

New Zealand Business Confidence

In New Zealand, the business confidence index is designed to provide a snapshot of business opinions regarding the expected future state of their business and economy overall. The survey covers around 700 respondents. The Net index is calculated by subtracting the percentage number of businesses that expect that the economic situation improves from the number that expect decline.

New Zealand Business Confidence

New Zealand Corruption Rank

New Zealand is the 1 least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.

New Zealand Corruption Rank

New Zealand Average Hourly Wages

Wages in New Zealand increased to 33.37 NZD/Hour in the second quarter of 2020 from 33.20 NZD/Hour in the first quarter of 2020.

Average Hourly Wages in New Zealand

New Zealand Bank Lending Rate

In New Zealand, the base lending rate is the average rate of interest charged on loans by commercial banks to new businesses.

Average Bank Lending Rate in New Zealand
Average Bank Lending Rate in New Zealand
New Zealand Consumer Confidence

The Westpac-McDermott Miller consumer confidence index in New Zealand declined further to 95.1 in the third quarter of 2020 from 97.2 in the previous period. It was the lowest reading since the financial crisis in 2008, with the steepest decreases observed in both current (-16.9 from -13.2 in Q2) and expected financial situation (11.2 from 14.7). In addition, the 5-year economic outlook deteriorated (9.9 from 11.6). On the other hand, the 1-year economic outlook improved (-26.3 from -28.3).

Consumer Confidence in New Zealand

New Zealand Credit Rating

Standard & Poor’s credit rating for New Zealand stands at AA with positive outlook. Moody’s credit rating for New Zealand was last set at Aaa with stable outlook. Fitch’s credit rating for New Zealand was last reported at AA with positive outlook. In general, a credit rating is used by sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and other investors to gauge the credit worthiness of New Zealand thus having a big impact on the country’s borrowing costs. This page includes the government debt credit rating for New Zealand as reported by major credit rating agencies.

Taxation in New Zealand

Taxes in New Zealand are collected at a national level by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) on behalf of the Government of New Zealand. National taxes are levied on personal and business income, and on the supply of goods and services. There is no capital gains tax, although certain “gains” such as profits on the sale of patent rights are deemed to be income – income tax does apply to property transactions in certain circumstances, particularly speculation. There are currently no land taxes, but local property taxes (rates) are managed and collected by local authorities. Some goods and services carry a specific tax, referred to as an excise or a duty, such as alcohol excise or gaming duty. These are collected by a range of government agencies such as the New Zealand Customs Service. There is no social security (payroll) tax.

New Zealand went through a major program of tax reform in the 1980s. The top marginal rate of income tax was reduced from 66% to 33% (changed to 39% in April 2000, 38% in April 2009 and 33% on 1 October 2010) and corporate income tax rate from 48% to 28% (changed to 30% in 2008 and to 28% on 1 October 2010). Goods and services tax was introduced, initially at a rate of 10% (then 12.5% and now 15%, as of 1 October 2010). Land taxes were abolished in 1992.

Corporate tax Personal income tax VAT or sales tax Social Security Rate For Companies Social Security Rate For Employees
28% 10.5%-33% 15% 3% 8%

How to Start a Business in New Zealand

There are few restrictions on establishing, owning and operating a business in New Zealand. In fact, by using the Government’s online portals, the process of reserving a name and incorporating your company can be completed in a matter of hours.

Business structures

Businesses in New Zealand generally use one of these three structures – Sole trader, Partnership, or Limited Liability.

1. Sole trader

A sole trader operates a business on their own. They can employ people, but the trader controls, manages and owns the business and is entitled to all profits. The trader is also personally liable for all business taxes and debts. Usually, a sole trader business can be established without any paperwork. Many New Zealand businesses start as sole traders and then move to a limited liability company structure as the business grows. Others choose to start as companies to take advantage of the protection and other benefits the structure offers.

2. Partnership

Partnerships are most common for professional people and in the farming industry. Partnerships can be an effective way to share business operation costs where, for example, several professional people work out of a joint office. The partnership itself does not pay income tax. Instead it distributes the partnership income to the partners. The partners then pay tax on their own share.

Many partnerships are established with a formal partnership agreement. It must be well thought-out to cover all contingencies and possible conflicts. No registration is required to start a partnership. Partnerships were once the automatic option for lawyers, doctors, accountants and other professionals. Today however partnerships are not as popular because professionals can now opt for a company structure which may offer better protection.

3. Limited liability

A company is a formal and legal entity in its own right and separate from its shareholders or owners. Shareholders’ liability for losses is limited to their share of ownership of the company. This does not apply when company directors have given personal guarantees for company debts, where a company has been trading while insolvent or is considered to be ‘trading recklessly’.

The limited liability company is New Zealand’s most successful business structure. It fosters confidence in the business by governing the relationships between investors/shareholders, directors and creditors and by giving customers, investors and other stakeholders a clearer picture of who and what they are dealing with. In New Zealand, you can register (incorporate) a company online through the Companies Office. There is a small fee, currently NZ$115 (plus GST).

Sourcing market information

Obviously you will want to know as much as you can about the market and opportunities for your business. Statistics New Zealand has a wide range of online information tables and tools that can help.

Check local authority rules

Before setting up with premises, check with your local council. Each territorial authority has its own rules and regulations about what business activity is allowed in different areas. For instance, it is unlikely that you would be able to run an automotive repair business in a residential area.

Set up tax numbers

Depending on the business structure you use, you will either need individual tax numbers or a company tax number. For more information visit Inland Revenue.

Get a lawyer, accountant and bank

Any New Zealand bank can help you with setting up bank accounts for business purposes, and many can also help you with transferring funds from overseas and other specialist migrants’ services. You may also want to seek legal and financial advice.

More information

To learn more about starting or buying a business in New Zealand visit