New Zealand

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Politics and government of
New Zealand


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The region is the top tier of local government in New Zealand. There are 16 regions of New Zealand. Eleven are governed by an elected regional council, while five are governed by territorial authorities (the second tier of local government) which also perform the functions of a regional council and thus are known as unitary authorities. The Chatham Islands Council is similar to a unitary authority, but is authorised under its own enabling legislation.[1]

Current regions[]

History and statutory basis[]

A regional council means one of the regional councils listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Local Government Act 2002.[2] That schedule lists the regional councils of New Zealand and their Gazette notices following their establishment in 1989.[3] The Local Government Act 2002 requires regional councils to promote sustainable development – the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of their communities.[4]

Unitary authorities act as regional councils for the purposes of a wide range of Acts and Regulations.

The current regions and most of their councils came about in 1989, as a result of an amalgamation procedure carried out under the Local Government Act 1974. The regional councils replaced the more than 700 ad-hoc bodies which had been formed in the preceding century – roads boards, catchment boards, drainage boards, pest control boards, harbour boards, domain and reserve boards.[5] In addition they took over some roles which had previously been performed by county councils. The unitary authority of the Auckland Council was formed in 2010, replacing the Auckland Regional Council.

The geographic extent of the regions was based largely on drainage basins, the regional boundaries being major drainage divides such as the Southern Alps. This anticipated the responsibilities of the Resource Management Act 1991.[6] Some regional boundaries conform with territorial authority boundaries but there are many exceptions. An example is Taupo District, which is split between four regions, although most of its area falls within the Waikato Region.


Regional authorities are primarily responsible for environmental management, including water, contaminant discharge and coastal management, river and lake management including flood and drainage control, regional land management; regional transport (including public transport) and harbours, biosecurity or pest management; while territorial authorities are responsible for: local-level land use management (urban and rural planning); network utility services such as water, sewerage, stormwater and solid waste management; local roads; libraries; parks and reserves; and community development. Property rates (land taxes) are used to fund both regional and territorial government activities. There is often a high degree of co-operation between regional and territorial councils as they have complementary roles.

Resource management functions[]

Regional Councils have these specific functions under the Resource Management Act 1991.

  • Planning for the integrated management of natural and physical resources [7]
  • Planning for regionally significant land uses [8]
  • Soil conservation, water quality and quantity, water ecosystems, natural hazards, hazardous substances [9]
  • Controlling the coastal marine area [10]
  • Controlling via resource consents the taking, use, damming or diverting of water [11]
  • Controlling via resource consents the discharge of contaminants [12]
  • Establishing of rules in a regional plan to allocate water [13]
  • Controlling via resource consents the beds of waterbodies [14]

Other functions[]

Regional councils also have responsibility for a number of other functions under other statutes;[15]

  • flood and river control under the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act 1941,
  • reserves vested in regional councils under the Reserves Act 1977,
  • civil defence under the Civil Defence Act 1990,
  • regional pest management under the Biosecurity Act 1993,
  • harbour and water navigation under the Maritime Transport Act 1994,
  • hazardous waste under the HSNO Act 1996, and,
  • public transport planning under the Land Transport Act 1998.

Regional councils were also given responsibilities for the supervision of the safety of dams in the Building Act 2004.[16]

List of regions[]

NorthlandAucklandAucklandAucklandWaikatoBay of PlentyGisborneHawke's BayTaranakiManawatu-WanganuiWellingtonTasmanTasmanNelsonMarlboroughMarlboroughWest CoastWest CoastCanterburyOtagoSouthlandSouthlandRegions of New Zealand
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Region Regional council Council seat Island Area (km²)[17] Population[18] ISO 3166-2 Code
1 Northland Northland Regional Council Whangarei North 13,941 158,300 NZ-NTL
2 Auckland (1) Auckland Council Auckland North 5,600 1,507,700 NZ-AUK
3 Waikato Environment Waikato Hamilton North 25,598 416,200 NZ-WKO
4 Bay of Plenty Bay of Plenty Regional Council Whakatane North 12,447 277,200 NZ-BOP
5 Gisborne (1) Gisborne District Council Gisborne North 8,351 46,800 NZ-GIS
6 Hawke's Bay Hawke's Bay Regional Council Napier North 14,164 155,000 NZ-HKB
7 Taranaki Taranaki Regional Council Stratford North 7,273 110,100 NZ-TKI
8 Manawatu-Wanganui Horizons Regional Council Palmerston North North 22,215 232,500 NZ-MWT
9 Wellington Greater Wellington Regional Council Wellington North 8,124 490,100 NZ-WGN
10 Tasman (1) Tasman District Council Richmond South 9,786 48,400 NZ-TAS
11 Nelson (1) Nelson City Council Nelson South 445 46,600 NZ-NSN
12 Marlborough (1) Marlborough District Council Blenheim South 12,484 45,700 NZ-MBH
13 West Coast West Coast Regional Council Greymouth South 23,336 32,900 NZ-WTC
14 Canterbury Canterbury Regional Council Christchurch South 45,346 558,800 NZ-CAN
15 Otago Otago Regional Council Dunedin South 31,990 211,300 NZ-OTA
16 Southland Southland Regional Council Invercargill South 34,347 94,900 NZ-STL

(1) These regions have unitary authorities.

Areas outside regional boundaries[]

New Zealand has a number of outlying islands that are not included within regional boundaries. The Chatham Islands is not in a region, although its council has some of the powers of a regional council under the Resource Management Act. The Kermadecs and the sub-Antarctic islands are inhabited only by a small number of Department of Conservation staff. The Conservation Minister is empowered to act as a regional council for these islands.


Regional councils are popularly elected every three years in accordance with the Local Electoral Act 2001.[19] Councils may use a first past the post or single transferable vote system. The chairperson of a regional council is selected by the elected council members.[20]

Predecessors of current regional structure[]

Auckland Regional Council[]

Wellington Region[]

Wellington had a regional council, and earlier the Wellington Regional Planning Authority.

United Councils[]

In 1978, legislation was passed enabling the formation of regions with United Councils. 20 regions were designated, excluding the ARA and WRC areas. For most of the country this was the first regional level of government since the abolition of provinces in 1876. United Councils were not directly elected bodies - they consisted of appointed councillors from the various Territorial Local Authorities within the region.

The only responsibilities mandated by the legislation were coordination of civil defence and development of a regional plan, although the constituent TLAs could agree on additional responsibilities at the point of formation of each United Council. For example, in a number of cases the United Council took responsibility for the allocation of revenue from regional petrol taxes.

The United Councils were based in the facilities of the largest TLA in the region and largely dependent on the TLAs for resources. They were allowed to levy rates but in most cases had minimal operating budgets (below $100,000 per annum). The notable exception was Canterbury, where the United Council had a number of responsibilities. Only one united council undertook any direct operational activity - a forestry project in Wanganui.[5]

List of United Councils[]

Region United Council formed Rates Levy (1982/83)
Northland January 1980 $118,000
Thames Valley July 1980 $46,000
Waikato October 1980 $36,000
Bay of Plenty August 1979 $17,000
Tongariro November 1979 $50,000
East Cape August 1979 $16,000
Hawkes Bay December 1983
Taranaki February 1979 $60,000
Wanganui May 1979 $81,000
Wairarapa November 1978 $33,000
Manawatu May 1981 0
Horowhenua June 1980 $47,000
Nelson Bays November 1978 $84,000
Marlborough December 1978 $30,000
Canterbury May 1979 $605,000
West Coast November 1978 $32,000
Aorangi 1983
Coastal / North Otago April 1983
Clutha / Central Otago November 1980 $33,000
Southland May 1979 $88,000

Source: Summary of the Functions and Activities of United Councils Dept of Internal Affairs, 1984.

See also[]


  1. ^ Chatham Islands Council Act 1995, Parliament of New Zealand, 1995, Statute No 041, Commenced: 1 November 1995, retrieved 4 February 2008.
  2. ^ "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 - Interpretation". Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  3. ^ "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 - Part 1, Schedule 2". Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  4. ^ Relationship between the Local Government Act and the RMA Quality Planning The RMA Resource, retrieved 11 October 2007.
  5. ^ a b Bush, Graham (1995). Local Government & Politics in New Zealand (2nd ed.). Auckland University Press. ISBN 1869401263. 
  6. ^ New Zealand Historical Atlas – McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor); David Bateman, 1997, Plate 98
  7. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(a)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  8. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(b)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  9. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(c)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  10. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(d)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  11. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(e)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  12. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(f)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  13. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(fa)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991. NB this is a new paragraph added in 2005.
  14. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(g)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  15. ^ Harris, R. (2004) 'Local government and development legislation', Chapter 3G, Handbook of Environmental Law, Editor Harris, R., ISBN 0-9597851-8-3, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, Wellington 2004, page 130.
  16. ^ Sections 135, 142, 150, and 154 Building Act 2004, Parliament of New Zealand.
  17. ^ Living Density: Table 1, Housing Statistics, Statistics New Zealand. Accessed 25 January 2009. Areas are based on 2001 boundaries. Water bodies greater than 15 hectares are excluded.
  18. ^ "Subnational population estimates at 30 June 2012". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.  Also "Infoshare; Group: Population Estimates - DPE; Table: Estimated Resident Population for Urban Areas, at 30 June (1996+) (Annual-Jun)". Statistics New Zealand. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  19. ^ Local Government Act 2002, s41(1)(a), Parliament of New Zealand.
  20. ^ Local Government Act 2002, s41(1)(b), Parliament of New Zealand.

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