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Department of Linguistics

T&I Labour Market in New Zealand

By Monique Wright


The information collected in this report was gathered from various sources; I sourced a lot of information from the internet, from which I found various contacts, such as NZSTI which is New Zealand's official Translation and Interpreting Association as well as freelance interpreters and translators. I also found various Universities that offer courses of study for Translation and Interpreting. I conducted two questionnaires, one for people who work as a freelancers and the other was focused on the education system for translation and interpreting in New Zealand universities. However, my main focus was to find out about what type of labour market New Zealand has for people in this profession.

New Zealand’s Industry Overview

New Zealand’s history with interpreting began with Captain James Cook who used a Tahitian interpreter, Tupaia, to try and communicate with the tangata whenua (natives) when he first arrived in New Zealand (Crezee, 1998) During the 17th to the 19th century British, Dutch, French and Russian settlers arrived in New Zealand; following the Treaty of Waitangi, the majority of immigration was from Brittan with some Chinese, Indian and Croatian immigrants arriving in the 19th century. Through the 20th century to the present day, immigrants have come to NZ from around the world including the Pacific, Asia, Europe Africa and the Middle East.

There are more than 350 languages spoken in New Zealand today. The NZ society of Translators and Interpreters Incorporated (NZSTI) began in 1985; interpreting and translating qualifications are offered at a number of tertiary institutions along with other professional development opportunities (Interpreters.2002).

Translation and Interpreting is a growing industry in New Zealand. The demand for accredited translators and interpreters continues to increase and technology has been one of the main catalysts for this expansion. Technology has increased opportunities for translation services based in New Zealand as international clients are increasingly utilizing the services of New Zealanders with competitive rates on a global scale. Access to the global market through telecommunications has increased the work for interpreters, as other countries are working at different hours to New Zealanders. Interpreters in New Zealand can also gain employment through a pilot telephone service, providing international interpreting services.

Statistics show from the last census that 285 people were employed as philologists, translators or interpreters in 2001 . The greatest growth of translators and interpreters in New Zealand is in Auckland. This is due partly to its large population, which is also culturally diverse. However there is a shortage of accredited or qualified interpreters in some of the Pacific Island languages and New Zealand Sign Language which was made an officially recognized language in New Zealand in March of this year. The highest proportions of people were employed in Auckland (53%), whereas the rest of the country was divided between the Wellington (15%) and Canterbury (13%) regions
The majority of translators are self-employed and have an alternative source of income. Finding full-time work can be difficult so many translators choose to interpret as well. It is a competitive market and without the necessary qualifications it is difficult to attract overseas clients. Translators and interpreters who specialize in one area are more sought after, especially with expertise in law, science, engineering, and medicine.

The first interpreting service was set up in 1991 at Middlemore hospital in South Auckland and it currently offers 120 language options for interpretation. There is a legal requirement to provide interpreters within the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989, Human Rights Act 1993, NZ Bills of Rights Act 1990 (Ethnic Affairs). Interpreters that are used in the Healthcare system are generally sourced from the hospitals own files or selected agency, and many Pacific Language interpreters work full time in Auckland.

Economy and Government Policy

Trade between the New Zealand and non-English speaking countries generates the need for translated documents, manuals, packaging and invoices. Free trade agreements may generate more work for translators also. The amount of translation work required is also influenced by government policy. In 2003 the criteria for gaining residency were tightened and higher levels of English language fluency were required. Since then immigration levels have fallen, which has lead to a decline in translation work generated by people applying for permanent residence.

Translation and Interpreting Agencies

Since the development of NZSTI in 1984 many agencies that specialize in translation and interpreting have begun business. Some of these agencies offer website translation at similar rates in addition to the standard translation and interpreting services, I also noticed a number of agencies teach languages and take tours of New Zealand as well.


Freelancing is also another way to work as a translator or interpreter. Usually this way of working requires a number of contacts or recommendations from previous clients. In New Zealand it helps if they are qualified by NAATI and or a member of NZSTI or registered by NZQA.

New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)

NZQA is the official qualifications authority in New Zealand, they specialize in the country's education system and all official school exams are run through this system. NZQA have a division dedicated to the recommendation of qualified translators and interpreters. To gain access to the system and to be recommended by NZQA the translator or interpreter must be qualified by NAATI examination and be a member New Zealand’s official association for translators and interpreters (NZSTI).The list of recommended translation services can be found on-

How to Obtain a Translation or Interpreting Job

The Internet

The best method if looking for translation or interpreting work in New Zealand is to use the Internet. All of the major agencies, associations and Universities that have anything to do with translation and interpreting are listed here. The online Yellow Pages also had a listing of all the agencies and websites a potential candidate can contact for work. Many of the agencies have websites as the international clientele is increasing substantially and a lot of them post their job vacancies on them.

Friends and Family

Friends and family can also be another effective way of contracting freelance work. In the questionnaire I conducted with freelancers, a lot of them agreed that 'word of mouth' is often the best form of advertising.

Join an Association

One of the easier ways of contracting work is through joining the NZSTI association. They have strict requirements upon joining and all translators and interpreters must be qualified by NAATI and are only permitted to work in their accredited language  direction/s. To be recommended by NZQA for work contracted through their website the translator/interpreter must be an official member of NZSTI.

Work for an Agency

In the Auckland region there are many agencies that offer translation and interpreting services. One way to acquire work is to approach them and translate and interpret for their agency. These positions are more likely to be full-time and a steady stream of work.

Requisite Qualifications and Education in New Zealand

According to the questionnaire I conducted on a range of freelance translators and interpreters has shown that the official NAATI qualification (level 3) is not essential to work in New Zealand.  Many have suggested that it does help to be officially accredited by NAATI, recommended by NZQA and/or have a degree in the relevant languages or in translation and interpreting, however, this can be easily overridden if the job is non-governmental. Occasionally these qualifications are asked for when dealing with the government or international clients that are aware of NAATI standards. The questionnaire also indicated that 'word of mouth' is often just as important as the official qualifications.


NAATI is the Australian based National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters. NAATI exams are held in New Zealand twice during the year and can also be requested. New Zealand does not have its own system of accreditation as the Australian system works well in New Zealand’s developing industry.


Translation and Interpreting are becoming more popular as New Zealanders become aware of the growing demand for skills in languages for business. However, the options of study are still fairly limited and mainly found in Auckland. Many students do choose to learn or continue with language studies in their Undergraduate Arts degrees, but it is quite rare to continue with it to a postgraduate level as the career is still quite unknown to many. However, I found a few options for those interested in translation and interpreting as a career. To apply for the following courses the applicant must have completed an undergraduate degree in the relevant languages.

University of Auckland
Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Interpreting
Frank Austermuhl
PG Adviser-Advanced Interpreting
Phone +64 9 373 7599 ext 87109

Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
Diploma in Interpreting and Translating
Certificate in Liaison Interpreting
Certificate in Translation Studies
Certificate in Advanced Interpreting (Health)
Advanced Certificate in Interpreting (Legal)

+64 9921 9999 ext 6088

The University of Waikato
Postgraduate Diploma in Translating and Interpreting Maori


Rate of Pay for Translation and Interpreting Services

According to Henry Liu, President of NZSTI, there is no official rate for the service of translation or interpreting except in the case of interpreters and translators used by the Police. In Police/legal assignments Interpreters earn the set fee of 25 NZD per hour and Translators the fee of 30 NZD per hour. More information on these fees and regulations can be found on

Freelancer Rates

There is a wide range in pricing for Freelance translators and interpreters; many have suggested that because of international competition they have  had to set their prices at a lower rate. The rates are also an indication of experience and qualifications.

Freelance Interpreter (per hour)

Ranges from 40 NZD- 120 NZD

Freelance Translator (per 100 words)

Ranges from 15 NZD- 40 NZD

Agency Rates
Agency rates may change according to level of difficulty of assignments.

Interpreting (Basic rate per hour)

80 NZD + GST

Minimum charge interpreting

135 NZD + GST

Telephone Interpreting (15 minutes +)

30 NZD + GST

Translation (per 100 words)

60 NZD + GST


Translation and Interpreting Associations in New Zealand

New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters Incorporated (NZSTI)
NZSTI is a nationally representative body of translators and interpreters that provides a networking forum for its members, represents members’ interests, and promotes continued professional development, quality standards and awareness of the profession within government agencies and the wider community. NZSTI was established in 1985 and has three regional branches in the three main centers of New Zealand, Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury.
NZSTI is currently formed of around 400 members which are categorized into three sub-sectors which are formed according-

1. Full members have a relevant degree in translation or interpreting, NAATI accreditation or equivalent qualifications and experience.

2. Affiliates are those whose qualifications do not qualify them as member status, but do have some qualifications in translation and interpreting

3. Observers are those persons who take an interest in the society and profession without having official qualifications.

NZSTI maintains an online directory in which the contact detail and working languages are included for future work opportunities. NZSTI Members, Affiliates and Observers receive a monthly newsletter ‘Word for Word’ to keep them updated on the current activities in translation and interpreting in New Zealand and around the world.
The NZSTI is also formally affiliated with The Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand (SLIANZ).  SLIANZ is a national professional association which aims to represent and advance the field of sign language interpreting.


Dr Henry Liu (President of NZSTI)
PO Box 109677
Newmarket, Auckland

PO Box 6090
Wellesley St, Auckland


In conclusion New Zealand's labour market for translators and interpreters is still fairly limited. However, it is also a developing industry that will boom due to globalisation and international business relations in years to come. I encountered a few problems during my research due to being unable to obtain a lot of information from agencies in particular regarding rates. Another problem I found is that the market is fairly fragmented and it is hard to find a standard rate for translators and interpreters. There is also a lack of options for translation and interpreting studies available at universities and this affects the standard of work generated within New Zealand. It is also an unfair system for those who are up to the NAATI (level 3) standard who charge average-high rates but miss out on full time work because of those who lower rates and standards of quality in their translations.

Further Related Contacts

Department of Internal Affairs
Parliament Buildings
PO Box 805
PH: +64 4 470 2920

Department of Labour
Ph: +64 4915 4015


1. Auckland District Health Board.2002. Interpreters. Board Policy Manual, Support Services

2. Kasanji.Latita.1996.Let’s Talk. Guidelines for Government Agencies Hiring Interpreters. Ethnic Affairs. Wellington

3.Kasper.Wolfgang.1996. Free to Work: the liberalization of New Zealand’s labour market. Merino lithographics.Qld

Website references

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