Local government in New Zealand
New Zealand is a unitary state rather than a federation—regions are created by the authority of the central government, rather than the central government being created by the authority of the regions. Local government in New Zealand has only the powers conferred upon it by Parliament. These powers have traditionally been distinctly fewer than in some other countries. For example, police and education are run by central government, while the provision of low-cost housing is optional for local councils. Many of them used to control gas and electricity supply, but nearly all of that was privatised or centralised in the 1990s.
New Zealand is divided into sixteen regions. These form the highest level of local government. New Zealand is also divided into 67 territorial authorities, consisting of 13 city councils, 53 district councils, and the Chatham Islands Council. Most territorial authorities are wholly within one region, but there are a few that cross regional boundaries. There are also four instances in which regional and territorial authorities are combined into a single unitary authority, and the isolated Chatham Islands have a body with its own special legislation, making it very like a unitary authority.
In each territorial authority there are commonly several community boards or area boards (see below). These form the lowest and weakest arm of local government.
Each of the regions and territorial authorities is governed by a council, which is directly elected by the residents of that region, district or city. Each council may use a system chosen by the outgoing council (after public consultation), either the bloc vote (viz. first-past-the-post in multi-member constituencies) or single transferable vote.
Local government jurisdictions
Regional councils all use a constituency system for elections, and the elected members elect one of their number to be chairperson. They set their own levels of rates (tax), though the mechanism for collecting it usually involves channelling through the territorial authority collection system. Regional council duties include:
- environmental management, particularly air and water quality and catchment control under the Resource Management Act 1991.
- regional aspects of civil defence
- transportation planning and contracting of subsidised public passenger transport.
Cities and districts
The sixty-seven territorial authorities consist of thirteen city councils, fifty-three district councils in more rural areas, and one council for the Chatham Islands. Each generally has a ward system of election, but an additional councillor is the mayor, who is elected at large and chairs the council. They too set their own levels of rates.
The territorial authorities may delegate powers to local community boards. These boards, instituted at the behest of either local citizens or territorial authorities, advocate community views but cannot levy taxes, appoint staff, or own property.
District health boards
New Zealand's health sector was restructured several times during the 20th century. The most recent restructuring occurred in 2001, with new legislation creating twenty-one District Health Boards (DHBs). These boards are responsible for the oversight of health and disability services within their communities. Seven members of each District Health Board are directly elected by residents of their area using the Single Transferable Vote system. In addition, the Minister of Health may appoint up to four members. The last District Health Board elections took place in 2007.
- Local Government New Zealand, represents the interests of local government bodies
- Politics of New Zealand