Business licensing in Queenstown
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your Trips or Experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with your city or an attorney.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the law has not changed recently.*
How do I know if I’m running a business?
Whether you are likely to be considered as running a business varies depending on whether it relates to consumer protection laws or tax obligations. If you meet the prescribed tests under these laws, the relevant obligations under the laws will apply to you.
For the purposes of New Zealand’s consumer protection laws (described below) the test is whether or not you are “in trade”. The Fair Trading Act 1986 applies to anyone in trade, including all commercial activities, trades, professions and any undertaking relating to the supply of or acquiring products and services (all businesses). The Commerce Commission which enforces the Fair Trading Act provides guidance as to who is "in trade", including whether you as a seller:
- regularly or habitually offer to sell products or services (whether online or otherwise); or
- make, buy or obtain products with the intention of selling them.
To the extent you are GST registered or have staff or a company structure or another type of trading entity then it is very likely you will be in trade, however these elements are not necessary.
Examples of where a person would likely be seen to be running a business ‘in trade’:
- I am a professional surf instructor and I want to occasionally provide experiences which involve me providing private surf lessons and introducing guests to my local beach.
- I am a non-professional photographer. I provide experiences involving photography lessons and guided visits of my area. I do this on a regular basis.
Example of where a person would likely not be seen to be running a business ‘in trade’:
- I am a keen cyclist who is active in the Queenstown cycling community. I want to provide an experience, as a one-off thing, where I offer guests the opportunity to join our cycling community during their stay.
For tax purposes, income which you must declare is very broad. This includes any amount that you derive from carrying on or carrying out an undertaking or scheme entered into or devised for the purpose of making a profit. As such, if you make money, you should consider your tax obligations. (It is irrelevant for tax purposes whether or not you meet the ‘in trade’ business test.).
Various New Zealand Government agencies have developed resources to help guide people through the various stages of starting and running a business, including the Ministry of Business. You are encouraged to review these resources for guidance on starting and running a business, as well as the various obligations under the law that would apply to you.
What legal structure could I choose to use to operate my business?
There are different legal structures you can use to set up your business. For example, you could choose to be a self-employed sole trader. This is the status that would automatically apply to you if you start running your own business as an individual. Alternatively, you could set up a company or partnership.
These are the three most common structures for your business in New Zealand. The New Zealand government has a useful guide on the different structures you can choose.
Do any general business registration or licensing obligations apply?
You can generally operate as a self-employed trader or partnership in Queenstown without having to register or obtain a business licence. If you intend to operate as a company, you will need to register with the Companies Office.
You can find out more information here.
Is there anything I need to be aware of when dealing with consumers?
If you provide any goods or services, you should be aware of obligations under the Fair Trading Act 1986 and Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 which apply if you are “in trade” (as discussed above), the Privacy Act 1993 and other general laws. There are a number of useful sites to go to for more information, such as:
The Fair Trading Act 1986 prohibits:
- you in trade from engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct generally (a breach of this is a criminal offence);
- you from making false or misleading representations about goods and services, including false claims that goods or services are of a particular price, standard, quality, origin or history, or that they have particular uses, characteristics or benefits or that they have a particular endorsement or approval; and
- you in trade from making unsubstantiated representations - this means that there must be reasonable grounds for making a representation about a product or service at the time that the representation is made.
The Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 sets out minimum statutory guarantees or warranties that must be met if you are a supplier in trade of goods or services ordinarily bought by consumers for personal, domestic or household use and consumption. These statutory guarantees are minimum standards and are in addition to any express guarantees offered. For instance, you will be considered to guarantee that your services will be carried out with reasonable care and skill. Basic information about the Consumer Guarantees Act is available here.
The Privacy Act 1993 will apply if you collect information about an identifiable individual in New Zealand. This provides that personal information can only be collected for a lawful purpose connected with a function or activity of your business, and you may do this only if the collection of the information is necessary for that activity. If you will be collecting information there are also certain things you need to tell the individual as set out in Principle 3.
You’ll also need to comply with health and safety legislation. Further guidance can be found in our information section on guiding tours.
Is there anything else I should be thinking about?
Yes. Depending on the activity you will be providing or organising, you may need to register, obtain licenses, or follow specific rules that apply to that activity.
For example, town planning rules control how a property can be used. Every local council has its own district plan, and the content can vary significantly from one council to another. There may also be bylaws in certain areas which further control activities. Additionally, district plans provide permitted activities standards and regulations. An example of the kind of regulations that may apply is a council law that states a restaurant in a certain residential area may not stay open after 10.00pm. You should check with your local council on the relevant district plan, and ensure that your proposed activity complies with the relevant standards and regulations.
In addition, our sections on activity specific licensing requirements and rules covers some of the typical activities, but is not intended to be comprehensive. You should always check the position with your local council or seek advice from a legal professional.
You should also check what tax and accounting rules apply to you, and make sure you have the right insurance cover in place to cover all the activities you will be providing.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).