New Zealand

Key figures

Research overview

Responding to challenges and existing knowledge gaps facing the cooperative movement, this mapping research seeks to provide exhaustive information on cooperatives worldwide. This is achieved through a process jointly conducted by the ICA and its four regional offices – Cooperatives of the Americas, Cooperatives Europe, ICA Africa, and ICA Asia-Pacific – using a common methodology. Each office collected the input of ICA members present in the countries within its geographic area, by using the same questionnaire, and completing it with relevant national statistics, in order to obtain an accurate picture of the national situation. Mapping out cooperatives in each country provides a more precise picture of the cooperative context at national and regional levels, enhances the movement's visibility, networking, partnerships opportunities, as well as advocacy, and empowers cooperators by providing them tools for positive change.

This webpage presents a snapshot of the research results for New Zealand. For more information, you can download the full report and the highlights here.


New Zealand’s history with cooperatives dates back to the 1840s when British settlers, who were influenced by the social advantages of the model, set up the first consumer and dairy cooperatives. The movement spread to agri-producers soon afterwards, followed by electricity, insurance and building societies. In 2014, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs named New Zealand the world’s most cooperative economy as the sector was contributing 20% to the GDP. In 2018, the Top 30 cooperatives in New Zealand accounted for 90% of its dairy industry, 90% of the export meat market, 50% of livestock, over 90% of the fertiliser market and over 60% of the groceries market. 


ICA has one member from New Zealand.

In New Zealand, the national report on key figures was developed based on the data for top 30 cooperatives published by CBNZ in 2017. The data collected was for the reference year 2015. Information on total number of cooperatives (members and employees) in New Zealand is currently not available. 


ICA member represents more than top 30 cooperatives in the country, with around 1.4 million members and 48, 455 employees.

Cooperatives are present across diverse sectors in New Zealand including agriculture, manufacturing, insurance, banking, financial services, utilities, education, health, wholesale and retail. 

Legal framework


The legal framework analysis aims to provide general knowledge of the national cooperative legislation and of its main characteristics and contents, with particular regard to those aspects of regulation regarding the identity of cooperatives and its distinction from other types of business organisations, notably the for-profit shareholder corporation.

It aims to evaluate whether the national legislation in place supports or hampers the development of cooperatives, and is, therefore “cooperative friendly” or not, and the degree to which it may be considered so, also in comparison to the legislation in force in other countries of the ICA region, or at the supranational level.

In addition, the research aims to provide recommendations for eventual renewal of the legal frameworks in place in order to understand what changes in the current legislation would be necessary to improve its degree of “cooperative friendliness”, which is to say, to make the legislation more favourable to cooperatives, also in consideration of their specific identity. This webpage presents a snapshot of the legal framework analysis results for New Zealand.



New Zealand doesn’t have a single constitutional document but a collection of legal documents coming together to make an uncodified constitution, which carries no special recognition or protection to cooperatives. This legal framework analysis of New Zealand specifically covers the Co-operative Companies Act 1996 and the Industrial Provident Societies Act 1908.

Except for financial cooperatives which have their own legislation (Friendly Societies and Credit Unions Act 1982), New Zealand’s cooperative legal framework does not make specific provision for different types of cooperatives. However, the laws mentioned below provide ample flexibility to accommodate types of cooperatives.


Main laws relevant to cooperatives in New Zealand

Co-operative Companies Act,1996

Industrial and Provident Societies Act, 1908

Building Societies Act, 1965

Incorporated Societies Act, 1908

Friendly Societies and Credit Unions Act 1982


New Zealand’s cooperative legal framework includes general and specific application of some of the cooperative principles.


Cooperative Friendliness

The Co-operative Companies Act,1996 is more cooperative friendly than not because it has been tailored to meet the specific requirements of the dairy industry which is the largest industry in the cooperative sector, and the law doesn’t itself encourages compliance with the cooperative principles but rather leaves it to the by-laws of cooperatives registered under the act. The Industrial and Provident Societies Act, 1908 is also more cooperative friendly than not because it requires the registrar to determine if the organisation seeking to register is a bona fide cooperative. It is an archaic law, which is otherwise flexible but leaves it to the bylaws of a cooperative to set out its adherence to cooperative principles.


Key recommendations for improvement

  • Replacement of the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, 1908 with new legislation for cooperative and community benefit associations.
  • To also include a provision in the Co-operative Companies Act,1996 and Industrial and Provident Societies Act, 1908 which allows cooperative companies to adopt accounting standards that are tailored for cooperatives.
  • Co-operative Companies Act,1996 to also adopt a mandatory cooperative governance code.



The history and development of cooperative law, in New Zealand, is unique, however recently due to global competition, volatile markets, etc. signs of cracks have emerged in New Zealand’s flexible approach to the cooperative business model.


The legal frameworks analysis is a tool developed under the ICA-EU Partnership #coops4dev. It is an overview of the national legal frameworks at the time of writing. The views expressed within are not necessarily those of the ICA, nor does a reference to any specific content constitute an explicit endorsement or recommendation by the ICA. 

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