Territorial authorities of New Zealand

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Territorial authorities are the second tier of local government in New Zealand, below regional councils. There are 67 territorial authorities: 13 city councils, 53 district councils and the Chatham Islands Council.[1] District councils serve a combination of rural and urban communities, while city councils administer the larger urban areas.[note 1] Five territorial authorities (Auckland, Nelson, Gisborne, Tasman and Marlborough) also perform the functions of a regional council and thus are unitary authorities. The Chatham Islands Council is a sui generis territorial authority that is similar to a unitary authority.

Territorial authority districts are not subdivisions of regions, and some of them fall within more than one region. Regional council areas are based on water catchment areas, whereas territorial authorities are based on community of interest and road access. Regional councils are responsible for the administration of many environmental and public transport matters, while the territorial authorities administer local roading and reserves, water supply and sanitation, building consents, the land use and subdivision aspects of resource management, and other local matters.[2] Some activities are delegated to council-controlled organisations. The scope of powers is specified by the Local Government Act 2002.[3]

Map of New Zealand territorial authorities. Cities are bolded and capitalised. Regions are indicated with colours.

List of territorial authorities[edit]

There are currently 67 territorial authorities. Before the Auckland Council "super merge" in November 2010, there were 73 territorial authorities. Before the Banks Peninsula District Council merged with the Christchurch City Council in 2006, there were 74 territorial authorities.

Name Members
(including mayor)
Seat Land area
Population[a] Density
Region(s)[b] Island
Far North District Council 10 Kaikohe 6,684 74,700 11.18 Northland North
Whangārei District Council 14 Whangārei 2,712 101,900 37.57 Northland North
Kaipara District Council 9 Dargaville 3,109 27,300 8.78 Northland North
Auckland Council 21 Auckland 4,941 1,739,300 352.01 unitary authority North
Thames-Coromandel District Council 9 Thames 2,207 33,700 15.27 Waikato North
Hauraki District Council 13 Paeroa 1,270 22,400 17.64 Waikato North
Waikato District Council 14 Ngāruawāhia 4,404 90,100 20.46 Waikato North
Matamata-Piako District Council 12 Te Aroha 1,755 37,700 21.48 Waikato North
Hamilton City Council 13 Hamilton 110 185,300 1,684.55 Waikato North
Waipa District Council 13 Te Awamutu 1,470 61,100 41.56 Waikato North
Ōtorohanga District Council 8 Ōtorohanga 1,999 10,900 5.45 Waikato North
South Waikato District Council 11 Tokoroa 1,819 26,000 14.29 Waikato North
Waitomo District Council 7 Te Kūiti 3,535 9,720 2.75 Waikato (94.87%)
Manawatū-Whanganui (5.13%)
Taupō District Council 11 Taupō 6,333 42,000 6.63 Waikato (73.74%)
Bay of Plenty (14.31%)
Hawke's Bay (11.26%)
Manawatū-Whanganui (0.69%)
Western Bay of Plenty District Council 12 Greerton[c] 1,951 60,800 31.16 Bay of Plenty North
Tauranga City Council 11 Tauranga 135 161,800 1,198.52 Bay of Plenty North
Rotorua District Council 11 Rotorua 2,409 78,200 32.46 Bay of Plenty (61.52%)
Waikato (38.48%)
Whakatāne District Council 11 Whakatāne 4,450 38,800 8.72 Bay of Plenty North
Kawerau District Council 9 Kawerau 24 7,820 325.83 Bay of Plenty North
Ōpōtiki District Council 7 Ōpōtiki 3,090 10,550 3.41 Bay of Plenty North
Gisborne District Council 14 Gisborne 8,385 52,600 6.27 unitary authority North
Wairoa District Council 7 Wairoa 4,077 9,290 2.28 Hawke's Bay North
Hastings District Council 15 Hastings 5,227 91,900 17.58 Hawke's Bay North
Napier City Council 13 Napier 105 67,500 642.86 Hawke's Bay North
Central Hawke's Bay District Council 9 Waipawa 3,333 16,000 4.80 Hawke's Bay North
New Plymouth District Council 15 New Plymouth 2,205 88,900 40.32 Taranaki North
Stratford District Council 11 Stratford 2,163 10,300 4.76 Taranaki (68.13%)
Manawatū-Whanganui (31.87%)
South Taranaki District Council 13 Hāwera 3,575 29,600 8.28 Taranaki North
Ruapehu District Council 12 Taumarunui 6,734 13,050 1.94 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Whanganui District Council 13 Whanganui 2,373 48,900 20.61 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Rangitikei District Council 12 Marton 4,484 16,300 3.64 Manawatū-Whanganui (86.37%)
Hawke's Bay (13.63%)
Manawatu District Council 11 Feilding 2,657 33,900 12.76 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Palmerston North City Council 16 Palmerston North 395 91,800 232.41 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Tararua District Council 9 Dannevirke 4,365 19,200 4.40 Manawatū-Whanganui (98.42%)
Wellington (1.58%)
Horowhenua District Council 12 Levin 1,064 37,500 35.24 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Kāpiti Coast District Council 11 Paraparaumu 732 58,400 79.78 Wellington North
Porirua City Council 11 Porirua 175 62,400 356.57 Wellington North
Upper Hutt City Council 11 Upper Hutt 540 48,300 89.44 Wellington North
Hutt City Council 13 Lower Hutt 376 114,000 303.19 Wellington North
Wellington City Council 15 Wellington 290 216,200 745.52 Wellington North
Masterton District Council 11 Masterton 2,300 29,100 12.65 Wellington North
Carterton District Council 9 Carterton 1,180 10,250 8.69 Wellington North
South Wairarapa District Council 10 Martinborough 2,387 11,900 4.99 Wellington North
Tasman District Council 14 Richmond 9,616 59,400 6.18 unitary authority South
Nelson City Council 13 Nelson 422 55,600 131.75 unitary authority South
Marlborough District Council 14 Blenheim 10,458 52,200 4.99 unitary authority South
Buller District Council 11 Westport 7,943 9,670 1.22 West Coast South
Grey District Council 9 Greymouth 3,474 14,250 4.10 West Coast South
Westland District Council 9 Hokitika 11,828 8,940 0.76 West Coast South
Kaikōura District Council 8 Kaikōura 2,047 4,230 2.07 Canterbury South
Hurunui District Council 10 Amberley 8,641 13,800 1.60 Canterbury South
Waimakariri District Council 11 Rangiora 2,217 69,000 31.12 Canterbury South
Christchurch City Council 17 Christchurch 1,416[d] 396,200 279.80 Canterbury South
Selwyn District Council 12 Rolleston 6,381 81,300 12.74 Canterbury South
Ashburton District Council 13 Ashburton 6,182 36,800 5.95 Canterbury South
Timaru District Council 10 Timaru 2,732 48,900 17.90 Canterbury South
Mackenzie District Council 7 Fairlie 7,139 5,690 0.80 Canterbury South
Waimate District Council 9 Waimate 3,554 8,400 2.36 Canterbury South
Chatham Islands Council 9 Waitangi 794 730 0.92 unitary authority South
Waitaki District Council 11 Oamaru 7,108 24,300 3.42 Canterbury (59.61%)
Otago (40.39%)
Central Otago District Council 11 Alexandra 9,933 26,000 2.62 Otago South
Queenstown-Lakes District Council 11 Queenstown 8,720 52,800 6.06 Otago South
Dunedin City Council 15 Dunedin 3,286 134,600 40.96 Otago South
Clutha District Council 15 Balclutha 6,335 18,900 2.98 Otago South
Southland District Council 13 Invercargill 29,552[e] 33,000 1.12 Southland South
Gore District Council 12 Gore 1,254 13,050 10.41 Southland South
Invercargill City Council 13 Invercargill 390 57,900 148.46 Southland South
  1. ^ Population as of June 2023
  2. ^ Percentages are of land area.
  3. ^ A suburb of Tauranga City
  4. ^ Total of Christchurch City and Banks Peninsula areas
  5. ^ Includes Stewart Island / Rakiura and the Solander Islands.

Offshore islands[edit]

There are a number of islands where the Minister of Local Government is the territorial authority, two of which have a 'permanent population and/or permanent buildings and structures.' The main islands are listed below (population according to 2001 census in parentheses):

In addition, seven of the nine groups of the New Zealand outlying islands are outside of any territorial authority:


Territorial authorities have a mayor–council government. Mayors in New Zealand are directly elected—at-large, by all eligible voters within a territorial authority—in the local elections to a three-year term.[5] The Local Government Act 2002 defines the role of a mayor as having to provide leadership to the other elected members of the territorial authority, be a leader in the community and perform civic duties.[3]


1989 local government reforms[edit]

For many decades until the local government reforms of 1989, a borough with more than 20,000 people could be proclaimed a city. The boundaries of councils tended to follow the edge of the built-up area, so little distinction was made between the urban area and the local government area.

New Zealand's local government structural arrangements were significantly reformed by the Local Government Commission in 1989 when approximately 700 councils and special purpose bodies were amalgamated to create 87 new local authorities. Regional councils were reduced in number from 20 to 13, territorial authorities (city/district councils) from 200 to 75, and special purpose bodies from over 400 to 7.[6] The new district and city councils were generally much larger and most covered substantial areas of both urban and rural land. Many places that once had a city council were now being administered by a district council.

As a result, the term "city" began to take on two meanings.

City also came to be used in a less formal sense to describe major urban areas independent of local body boundaries. This informal usage is jealously guarded. Gisborne, for example, adamantly described itself as the first city in the world to see the new millennium. Gisborne is administered by a district council, but its status as a city is not generally disputed.[citation needed]

Under current law, an urban area has to be at least 50,000 residents before it can be officially proclaimed as a city.[7]

Changes since 1989[edit]

Since the 1989 reorganisations, there have been few major reorganisations or status changes in local government. Incomplete list:

Reports on completed reorganisation proposals since 1999 are available on the Local Government Commission's site (link below).

2007–2009 Royal Commission on Auckland Governance[edit]

On 26 March 2009, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance recommended the Rodney, North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland City, Manukau, Papakura and Franklin territorial councils and the Auckland Regional Council be abolished and the entire Auckland region to be amalgamated into one "supercity".[9] The area would consist of one city council (with statutory provision for three Māori councillors), four urban local councils, and two rural local councils:

  • Rodney local council would lose Orewa, Dairy Flat, and Whangaparaoa but retain the remainder of the current Rodney District. The split areas as well as the current North Shore City would form a Waitemata local council.
  • Waitakere local council would consist of the current Waitakere City as well as the Avondale area.
  • Tamaki Makaurau would consist of the current Auckland City and Otahuhu (excluding CBD)
  • Manukau local council would consist of the urban parts of the current Manukau City and of the Papakura District.
  • Hunua local council would consist of the entire Franklin District, much of which is currently in the Waikato Region, along with rural areas of the current Papakura District and Manukau City.
  • The entire Papakura District would be dissolved between urban and rural councils.

The National-led Government responded within about a week. Its plan, which went to a Select Committee, accepted the proposal for supercity and many community boards, but rejected proposals for local councils and, initially, no separate seats for Māori.

Public reaction to the Royal Commission report was mixed, especially in regards to the Government's amended proposal. Auckland Mayor John Banks supported the amended merger plans.[10]

Criticism of the amended proposal came largely from residents in Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore Cities.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17] In addition, Māori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples spoke against the exclusion of the Māori seats, as recommended by the Royal Commission.[18][19] Opposition Leader Phil Goff called for a referendum on the issue.[20]

Creation of Auckland Council[edit]

Auckland Council was created on 1 November 2010—a unitary authority that is classed as both a region and a territorial authority. It incorporated the recommendations of the Royal Commission and was established via legislation.[21] Auckland Council is uniquely divided into "local boards" representing the lowest tier of local government.[22]

Failed proposed changes[edit]

  • 2015: Proposals to amalgamate local councils in Wellington[23] and Northland were accepted[24] by the Local Government Commission for consideration, although following consultation they ultimately were not formed into a final proposal. The status quo remains.
  • 2015: Amalgamation of four local councils and the regional council in Hawke's Bay was proposed by the Local Government Commission. A district wide referendum was held in Sep-2015, and the proposal was defeated by 66% of voters.[25]
  • 2015: The Local Government Commission received a proposal to review local government arrangements on the West Coast. In August 2016 the Commission decided to progress the application. The Commission then invited alternative applications to the original application. The Commission's call for alternative reorganisation applications or other proposals for change to West Coast local government arrangements closed on 15 March 2017. The Commission received 23 responses, 19 of which made specific proposals for change. In December 2017 the Local Government Commission determined its preferred option for local government reorganisation on the West Coast to be the transfer of district plan preparation from the Buller, Grey and Westland district councils to the West Coast Regional Council.[26]

Youth councils[edit]

Under the terms of the Local Government Act 2002, district councils have to represent the interests of their future communities and consider the views of people affected by their decisions. To fulfill that requirement and give young people a say in the decision-making process, many councils have a youth council. [27] In late December 2023, the Ashburton District Council scrapped their youth council, stating they could engage better with younger people online and describing the current youth council as "a youth club where they ate pizza."[28] In early January 2024, the Gore District Council opted to restructure its youth council and ruled out dismantling it.[29] In April 2024, the Whanganui District Council proposed scrapping its youth council by June 2024 as part of budget saving measures.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Territorial authority". Stats NZ. 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Councils' roles and functions". www.localcouncils.govt.nz. New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 (as at 16 May 2020), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". www.legislation.govt.nz. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Data Table | Territorial Authority 2020 Clipped (generalised) | Stats NZ Geographic Data Service". datafinder.stats.govt.nz. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  5. ^ "Councillors and Mayors". www.localcouncils.govt.nz. New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  6. ^ Wallis, J.and Dollery, B. (2000). Local Government Reform in New Zealand Working Paper Series in Economics, No 2000-7, May 2000, ISBN 1-86389-682-1, University of New England School of Economic Studies, Armidale NSW 2351 Australia. Copyright 2000 by Joe Wallis and Brian Dollery. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  7. ^ "Local Government Act 2002, Schedule 3 part 16, Cities". www.legislation.govt.nz. Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  8. ^ "Chatham Islands Council Act 1995". New Zealand Legislation. New Zealand Government. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  9. ^ Thompson, Wayne (28 March 2009). "Super-city tipped to save $113m a year". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
  10. ^ Thompson, Wayne (8 April 2009). "Proposal 'a great start' says Banks, but other mayors critical – Super City – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  11. ^ "Protest gets backing". Stuff. 30 April 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  12. ^ "Marching for Waitakere". Stuff. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Supercity protesters hit the streets – national". Stuff. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  14. ^ Udanga, Romy (5 May 2009). "Call for a united front". Stuff. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  15. ^ Udanga, Romy (5 May 2009). "Supercity fears emerge". Stuff. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  16. ^ Kemeys, David (3 June 2009). "Who stole our voice? – auckland". Stuff. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  17. ^ "Govt's super-council leaflets anger mayor – National – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  18. ^ Tahana, Yvonne (8 April 2009). "Anger rises over lack of Maori seats – National – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  19. ^ Kotze, Karen (11 May 2009). "Hui calls for representation". Stuff. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  20. ^ "Let Auckland decide on local government changes | Scoop News". Scoop.co.nz. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  21. ^ "Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 No 32 (as at 10 May 2016), Public Act Contents – New Zealand Legislation". Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  22. ^ "Better Local Government". Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  23. ^ "LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION MANA KĀWANATANGA Ā ROHE" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 January 2015.
  24. ^ "LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION MANA KĀWANATANGA Ā ROHE" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 January 2015.
  25. ^ "Hawke's Bay Reorganisation Poll : PROGRESS RESULT" (PDF). Electionz.com. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  26. ^ "West Coast reorganisation application". www.lgc.govt.nz. New Zealand Local Government Commission. Retrieved 10 September 2020. Text was copied from this source, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
  27. ^ a b Gosavi, Janhavi (11 April 2024). "Youth voices in local government are under threat". Re. TVNZ. Archived from the original on 19 April 2024. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  28. ^ Leask, Jonathan (27 December 2023). "Youth Council axed, labelled as 'a youth club where they ate pizza'". The Star. Archived from the original on 31 December 2023. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  29. ^ Kelly, Rachael (5 January 2024). "'How can we not continue?' Gore votes to save its youth council". Southland Times. Stuff. Archived from the original on 8 January 2024. Retrieved 19 April 2024.


  1. ^ City councils serve a population of more than 50,000 in a predominantly urban area.

External links[edit]