Server failure hits business number launch

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 12:47 28/11/2013

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The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has had to push back issuing New Zealand Business Numbers to Kiwi firms because of a server failure overnight.

The ministry had been due to allocate the new "unique identifiers" to 1.1 million businesses currently or formerly registered with the Companies Office today.

But project manager Alan Quinn said the hardware failure would cause a one or two-week delay.

The NZ Business Numbers use the same 13-digit numbering system used to generate barcodes. The ministry is looking at what law changes might be required to also issue the numbers to the country's 500,000 sole traders and 450,000 trusts and partnerships.

Xero boss Rod Drury believed the business identification system could revolutionise not just the way companies do business with government agencies, but also the way they do business with one another, sparking a new e-commerce boom.

"It is a key bit of infrastructure," Drury said. "What we are doing now is building the capacity to record the numbers into the next release of our software."

Eventually, he hoped it would let businesses use Xero's accounting software to automatically file returns to the likes of ACC and Statistics New Zealand.

Quinn said it could even assist with civil defence. A similar numbering system in Australia had helped the Queensland government locate and marshal resources from the private sector to combat bushfires.

The only information that will initially be linked to NZBNs will be basic information held by the Companies Office, such as businesses' names, addresses, other contact information and directors.

Quinn said it wouldn't be until "early to mid-2014" that people would be able to search the database using the numbers.

Anyone should then be able to search for and check the identity, contact details and ownership of a business using their NZBN.

Quinn said government agencies might be able to access a richer database of linked information that could not be searched by the public. That could include "spatial "information, showing where each business was on a map, a business industry code which recorded what sector it was operating in, and perhaps about another five or six "data elements".

Drury said it was vital the business identity scheme was extended beyond companies to sole traders.

"That is where most of the issues are when you are trying to work out who you are trading with."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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