Starting a co-op

Resources you may find useful if you are considering starting a cooperative


What we mean by a cooperative

A simple definition, available here. Vital to understanding whether or not the cooperative business model will make possible what you are wanting to accomplish.

Provisional membership

We ask individuals and groups wanting to form a cooperative to become a provisional member of this organisation, for which there is no fee. Go to the Membership page to find out more on provisional membership.

It’s really worth your while joining Cooperative Business New Zealand if you’re seriously considering forming a cooperative. A lot more information is available to provisional members than can be found on this website. Some of it is confidential, and some may have a focus on exactly the area that interests you.

Our expectation is that provisional members become full members once the business starts to trade.

Find out about the cooperatives that members are looking to start here (in development).

Cooperative Advisory Group

This body of people is made up of members, directors and executives from our member businesses who are happy to talk to individuals and groups wanting to start a cooperative. It also includes legal and financial professionals.

In the first instance, phone the Cooperative Business office on 09 539 5482.

Cooperative Principles

The cooperative is the only business model with its own set of principles. Drawn up by the International Cooperative Alliance, cooperatives the world over use these seven principles as the basis of their business:

1 – Voluntary and open membership
2 – Democratic member control
3 – Member economic participation
4 – Autonomy and independence
5 – Education, training and information
6 – Cooperation among cooperatives
7 – Concern for community

Download these principles with an explanation: International Cooperative Alliance – Seven Principles

Information of cooperative organisations from the Ministry of Economic Development

A useful pamphlet issued by the Ministry of Economic Development in 2004 on the different kinds of cooperative entities, available for download as a PDF:

Cooperative Organisations: Establishing a Cooperative Company or Industrial and Provident Society

The Ministry of Economic Development’s Companies Office web pages on the different kinds of cooperative organisations:

Companies Office info on cooperative companies

Companies Office info on industrial and provident societies


Reinventing Cooperation book

Reinventing Co-operation, the challenge of the 21st century

A must read for all cooperative directors and senior executives – and for anyone hoping to set up and run a successful cooperative business.

This 300-page book dispels the myths and misunderstandings that surround the cooperative business model and sets out – in straightforward language – the essentials of understanding and organising a cooperative.

Choose whether you’re in New Zealand or overseas from the menu below, then click Buy Now to get your copy.

Price including delivery


Useful documents

Until recently an industrial and provident society, Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation reconstituted themselves as a cooperative company. The co-op’s constitution, certificate of inforporation, investment statement and prospectus can be found online here. These is useful information for those considering setting up a cooperative company.

Information available to provisional members includes:

  • Comparing different business models – how cooperatives differ from investor-owned companies, trusts and societies
  • Multistakeholder co-op manual – useful if you want more than one group to benefit from your co-op
  • Special features of cooperative companies – what makes them different from regular companies
  • Differences between co-ops, investor-owned companies and non-for-profit entities – an ICA reprint of a US OCDC document
  • The Nature of the Cooperative – vital for understanding the economics of a cooperative and how members benefit

and much, much more. In Washington, the United States Department of Agriculture has produced a Guide for the Development of Purchasing Cooperatives, which can be found here and this online guide from the USDA could be some use to New Zealanders:

How to Start a Cooperative

Thinking of starting a consumer and/or producer-run food co-op?

The US Cooperative Grocers Information Network has put out this manual, which is also well worth reading if you are considering starting another type of cooperative.

How to Start a Food Co-op

From Britain, a website which offers a simple guide to setting up food co-ops.

Food Co-ops Toolkit

And from Canada here’s an excellent guide to local food co-ops you can download as a PDF.

Working Together For Local Food

Local Roots is a food co-op in Wooster, Ohio. The web page where members can sign up to join is clear and may well be of use. Find it here.

CDS Consulting Co-op is a US cooperative which assists food cooperatives get off the ground and develop. Their website contains a number of resources, such as this 36 page Patronage Dividends for Food Co-ops which is an excellent read.

For advice, assistance and more useful documents, phone 09 539 5482 or send an email. Info on provisional membership for individuals and groups in New Zealand wanting to start a cooperative can be found on the Membership page.