Choose a domain name
How to choose a domain name, what you can include in domain names, and why you should usually avoid registering variations of a domain name.
How to choose a domain name
Domain names should be clear and easy to understand for members of the public.
New government organisations or business units
For new government organisations or business units, choose a name that:
- reflects the official name of the new entity (preferably in full or using a subject matter keyword)
- avoids confusion with other government organisations.
If you think acronyms or terminology might not be recognised outside of your team or organisation, then do not use them in your domain name.
Eligible projects or initiatives
For an eligible project or initiative, choose a name that describes the purpose of the site and service being provided.
Domain name policy
In general, new domain names should meet the criteria for eligible names, as outlined in the Policy for Moderation and Registration of .govt.nz Internet Domain Names.
Types of domain names
A third-level domain is any new domain registered in the .govt.nz space.
Because .govt.nz is a moderated space, you need to apply to register any new third-level domains.
A fourth-level domain name is also known as a sub-domain, and makes use of an existing third-level domain.
Making use of a fourth-level domain name instead of registering a new third-level domain means that you retain the trust and recognition built up in your existing domain.
You also do not need to apply to register a new fourth-level domain name — your IT or communications team will be able to set this up for you.
Acronyms in domain names
Only use acronyms in domain names if they’re widely recognised by the public and used in contexts outside of the domain name.
If spelling out the term in full is too long, consider what subject keywords or other terms could be appropriate. The Domain Name Service Team will help you with this.
Subject-based domains are clearer and more likely to stay relevant for longer. For example, employment.govt.nz provides information and links to all government organisations working in the employment area.
Note: Applications for acronym domain names need to include evidence that alternative domain names have been considered.
Te reo domain names
You should only register 1 domain name per website. However, if you want to register a te reo Māori version of your organisation’s name you can.
When registering a te reo Māori version of the domain name, consider how it will be managed. Will it:
- redirect to an existing domain
- be used as an alias
- direct to a te reo Māori version or section of the website?
You can also register names with macrons over vowels, like ā or ō.
If you choose to register a domain with macrons, it’s recommended that you also register a version of the domain name without macrons, to help users who cannot type them.
Technical domain names
Registrations of separate .govt.nz domain names for technical purposes are allowed when there’s a valid requirement and the domains are not intended to be shown to the public.
The domain should show which organisation is using it and the technical nature.
Avoid generic technical terms
Applications for generic technical terms like test.govt.nz or cloud.govt.nz will not be granted.
All public sector organisations should make use of a .govt.nz domain name.
Applying for a non-.govt.nz domain
Applications for non-.govt.nz registrations will only be granted for public sector websites in exceptional circumstances — for example, when a website is intended primarily for an international audience.
If you need to register a non-.govt.nz domain, this can be managed together with and kept alongside your other .govt.nz domains via the government DNS Management Portal.
Transferring a non-.govt.nz domain to the government registrar
You can also transfer non-.govt.nz domains to the government registrar so that you can manage them using the DNS Management Portal.
Defensive registration of domain names
Registering variations of domain names to prevent other people using them — known as defensive registration — is unlikely to stop someone else registering a very similar one. This is because the number of ‘lookalike’ variations that could be registered is limitless.
Registering and promoting a single .govt.nz domain is a good way to let your users know that they’ve found the right website.
Depending on how they’re set up, a large number of alternative domains can damage your search engine optimisation (SEO).
What to do with a ‘lookalike’ domain
If someone registers a lookalike domain, you can take one of the following actions, depending on your situation.
- If they’re using a government trademark or impersonating a government service, lodge a complaint with NZ’s Domain Name Commission.
- If they’re using paid advertising to appear in search results for keywords related to government services, report this to the search engine — for example, see how to report an ad on Google.
You can also contact the Domain Name Service Team for advice.