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. Prior to the Auckland Council "super merger" in November 2010, there were 73 territorial authorities. Prior to the Banks Peninsula District merging with the Christchurch City Council in 2006, there were 74 territorial authorities.

Name Members
(including mayor)
Seat Area
Population[3] Density
Region(s)[a] Island
Far North District 10 Kaikohe 6,677 68,500 10.26 Northland North
Whangarei District 14 Whangārei 2,712 96,000 35.40 Northland North
Kaipara District 9 Dargaville 3,109 24,100 7.75 Northland North
Auckland 21 Auckland 4,940 1,642,800 332.55 unitary authority North
Thames-Coromandel District 9 Thames 2,207 31,500 14.27 Waikato North
Hauraki District 13 Paeroa 1,270 21,000 16.54 Waikato North
Waikato District 14 Ngāruawāhia 4,403 79,900 18.15 Waikato North
Matamata-Piako District 12 Te Aroha 1,755 36,000 20.51 Waikato North
Hamilton City 13 Hamilton 110 169,500 1,540.91 Waikato North
Waipa District 13 Te Awamutu 1,470 56,200 38.23 Waikato North
Ōtorohanga District 8 Otorohanga 1,999 10,500 5.25 Waikato North
South Waikato District 11 Tokoroa 1,819 25,100 13.80 Waikato North
Waitomo District 7 Te Kuiti 3,535 9,490 2.68 Waikato (94.87%)
Manawatū-Whanganui (5.13%)
Taupō District 11 Taupō 6,333 39,300 6.21 Waikato (73.74%)
Bay of Plenty (14.31%)
Hawke's Bay (11.26%)
Manawatū-Whanganui (0.69%)
Western Bay of Plenty District 12 Greerton[b] 1,951 53,900 27.63 Bay of Plenty North
Tauranga City 11 Tauranga 135 144,700 1,048.55 Bay of Plenty North
Rotorua Lakes 11 Rotorua 2,409 75,100 31.17 Bay of Plenty (61.52%)
Waikato (38.48%)
Whakatāne District 11 Whakatane 4,450 37,100 8.34 Bay of Plenty North
Kawerau District 9 Kawerau 24 7,490 312.08 Bay of Plenty North
Ōpōtiki District 7 Opotiki 3,089 9,720 3.15 Bay of Plenty North
Gisborne District 14 Gisborne 8,386 49,300 5.88 unitary authority North
Wairoa District 7 Wairoa 4,077 8,680 2.13 Hawke's Bay North
Hastings District 15 Hastings 5,227 85,000 16.26 Hawke's Bay North
Napier City 13 Napier 105 65,000 619.05 Hawke's Bay North
Central Hawke's Bay District 9 Waipawa 3,332 14,850 4.46 Hawke's Bay North
New Plymouth District 15 New Plymouth 2,205 84,400 38.28 Taranaki North
Stratford District 11 Stratford 2,163 9,860 4.56 Taranaki (68.13%)
Manawatū-Whanganui (31.87%)
South Taranaki District 13 Hāwera 3,575 28,600 8.00 Taranaki North
Ruapehu District 12 Taumarunui 6,734 12,750 1.89 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Whanganui District 13 Whanganui 2,373 47,300 19.93 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Rangitikei District 12 Marton 4,484 15,750 3.51 Manawatū-Whanganui (86.37%)
Hawke's Bay (13.63%)
Manawatu District 11 Feilding 2,657 31,700 11.93 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Palmerston North City 16 Palmerston North 395 88,300 223.54 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Tararua District 9 Dannevirke 4,364 18,650 4.27 Manawatū-Whanganui (98.42%)
Wellington (1.58%)
Horowhenua District 12 Levin 1,064 35,000 32.89 Manawatū-Whanganui North
Kapiti Coast District 11 Paraparaumu 731 56,000 76.61 Wellington North
Porirua City 11 Porirua 175 59,100 337.71 Wellington North
Upper Hutt City 11 Upper Hutt 540 46,000 85.19 Wellington North
Lower Hutt City 13 Lower Hutt 376 108,700 289.10 Wellington North
Wellington City 15 Wellington 290 210,400 725.52 Wellington North
Masterton District 11 Masterton 2,300 26,800 11.65 Wellington North
Carterton District 9 Carterton 1,180 9,690 8.21 Wellington North
South Wairarapa District 10 Martinborough 2,387 11,100 4.65 Wellington North
Tasman District 14 Richmond 9,616 54,800 5.70 unitary authority South
Nelson City 13 Nelson 424 52,900 124.76 unitary authority South
Marlborough District 14 Blenheim 10,458 49,200 4.70 unitary authority South
Buller District 11 Westport 7,942 9,840 1.24 West Coast South
Grey District 9 Greymouth 3,474 13,750 3.96 West Coast South
Westland District 9 Hokitika 11,828 8,960 0.76 West Coast South
Kaikōura District 8 Kaikoura 2,047 4,110 2.01 Canterbury South
Hurunui District 10 Amberley 8,641 12,950 1.50 Canterbury South
Waimakariri District 11 Rangiora 2,217 62,800 28.33 Canterbury South
Christchurch City 17 Christchurch 1,415[4] 385,500 272.44 Canterbury South
Selwyn District 12 Rolleston 6,381 65,600 10.28 Canterbury South
Ashburton District 13 Ashburton 6,183 34,800 5.63 Canterbury South
Timaru District 10 Timaru 2,733 47,900 17.53 Canterbury South
Mackenzie District 7 Fairlie 7,140 5,140 0.72 Canterbury South
Waimate District 9 Waimate 3,554 8,080 2.27 Canterbury South
Chatham Islands 9 Waitangi 794 710 0.89 unitary authority South
Waitaki District 11 Oamaru 7,109 23,200 3.26 Canterbury (59.61%)
Otago (40.39%)
Central Otago District 11 Alexandra 9,956 23,100 2.32 Otago South
Queenstown-Lakes District 11 Queenstown 8,719 41,700 4.78 Otago South
Dunedin City 15 Dunedin 3,287 131,700 40.07 Otago South
Clutha District 15 Balclutha 6,334 18,350 2.90 Otago South
Southland District 13 Invercargill 29,552[5] 32,100 1.09 Southland South
Gore District 12 Gore 1,254 12,800 10.21 Southland South
Invercargill City 13 Invercargill 389 56,200 144.47 Southland South
  1. ^ Percentages are of land area.
  2. ^ A suburb of Tauranga City

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 parenthesis):

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


Mayors in New Zealand, like councillors, are directly elected in the local elections 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.

The word "city" 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.

Under the current law the minimum population for a new city is 50,000.

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".[8] The area would consist of one city council (with statutory provision for three Maori 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 proposal, which will go to a Select Committee, has the supercity and many community boards but no local councils and for the first election no separate seats for Maori.

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.[9]

Criticism of the amended proposal came largely from residents in Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore Cities.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] In addition, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples spoke against the exclusion of the Maori seats, as recommended by the Royal Commission.[17][18] Opposition Leader Phil Goff called for a referendum on the issue.[19]

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.[20] Auckland Council is uniquely divided into "local boards" representing the lowest tier of local government.[21]

Failed proposed changes[edit]

  • 2015: Proposals to amalgamate local councils in Wellington[22] and Northland were accepted[23] 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.[24]
  • 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.[25]

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. ^ Living Density: Table 1 Archived 28 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Housing Statistics, Statistics New Zealand. Accessed 25 January 2009. Areas are based on 2001 boundaries. Water bodies greater than 15 hectares are excluded.
  5. ^ "Councillors and Mayors". www.localcouncils.govt.nz. New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  6. ^ Local Government Reform in New Zealand[permanent dead link] 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.
  7. ^ "Chatham Islands Council Act 1995". New Zealand Legislation. New Zealand Government. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  8. ^ Thompson, Wayne (28 March 2009). "Super-city tipped to save $113m a year". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Protest gets backing". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  11. ^ "Marching for Waitakere". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  12. ^ "Supercity protesters hit the streets – national". Stuff.co.nz. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  13. ^ Udanga, Romy. "Call for a united front". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  14. ^ Udanga, Romy. "Supercity fears emerge". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  15. ^ Kemeys, David. "Who stole our voice? – auckland". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Govt's super-council leaflets anger mayor – National – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  17. ^ Tahana, Yvonne (8 April 2009). "Anger rises over lack of Maori seats – National – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  18. ^ Kotze, Karen. "Hui calls for representation". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  19. ^ "Let Auckland decide on local government changes | Scoop News". Scoop.co.nz. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "Better Local Government". Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ "Hawke's Bay Reorganisation Poll : PROGRESS RESULT" (PDF). Electionz.com. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  25. ^ "West Coast reorganisation application". www.lgc.govt.nz. New Zealand Local Government Commission. Retrieved 10 September 2020. CC-BY icon.svg Text was copied from this source, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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

External links[edit]