Starting up

New Zealand business regulation and legislation: What migrant entrepreneurs need to know

3 min read


With its open and transparent markets, New Zealand is a great place to do business. It’s a fact that’s regularly backed up by global surveys; in 2016, for example, the World Bank’s Doing Business report ranked New Zealand the easiest country for doing business, while New Zealand placed second on Forbes’ ‘best countries for business’ list in 2017.

That international reputation, married with the lifestyle opportunities New Zealand offers, makes it an attractive destination for migrants wanting to start a business.

But despite our regulatory and legislative business environment being relatively easy to navigate, compliance with New Zealand’s rules and laws is still a must. New Zealand is a small, transparent economy where instances of corruption are rare; penalties for non-compliance or breaking the law can be severe – and ignorance is no excuse.

However, rules and regulations – and expectations around compliance with those – can vary greatly between countries, and language barriers can create a further challenge for migrants wanting to fully understand our business environment.

How to ensure you play by the rules

There are some basic areas of the business environment that you’ll need understand – such as how to start and register a business, as well as your tax, employment relations, and health and safety obligations. For many, online research is the easiest and most efficient means of finding out their obligations, and alongside the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s comprehensive Business.govt.nz website, useful government sites include:

  • The Companies Office website, which provides information on how to start a new company and is the portal through which this is done.
  • Inland Revenue, which provides information on tax requirements for business, such as receiving income, GST and employing staff. Many transactions can also be handled through this portal.
  • Employment New Zealand, which provides information about starting work, hours and wages, leave and holidays, workplace policies, resolving problems and ending employment.
  • Worksafe NZ, which provides workplace health and safety information and guidance.

When English isn't your first language

For migrants who find comprehending information in English a challenge, some agencies offer access to Language Line. This allows you to use the services of a professional telephone interpreter (the service is offered in 44 languages) who will join you on the phone to help you talk with the agency.

Other sources such as local councils, regional economic development agencies, industry bodies and your bank can also be good to check in with to fully understand your obligations.

BNZ Connect

And finally, don’t forget to talk to fellow small business owners. This is important to understand your obligations in context – to see how others are successfully applying the rules in actual business environments. BNZ Connect is great for this. It’s a free nationwide speaker series where small business owners come together to increase their knowledge and network in a relaxed environment.