Regions of New Zealand

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NorthlandAucklandAucklandAucklandWaikatoBay of PlentyGisborneHawke's BayTaranakiManawatu-WanganuiWellingtonTasmanTasmanNelsonMarlboroughMarlboroughWest CoastWest CoastCanterburyOtagoSouthlandSouthlandRegions of New Zealand
Regions of New Zealand
Category Unitary state
LocationFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Populations32,600 (West Coast) – 1,527,100 (Auckland)
Areas450 km2 (172 sq mi) (Nelson) – 45,350 km2 (17,508 sq mi) (Canterbury)
Government Local government
Subdivisions Territorial authority
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
This article is part of a series on the
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Map of regions (coloured) with territorial authorities delineated by black lines. City names are in all upper case, and district names have initial capitals. NZ Regional Councils and Territorial Authorities 2017.svg
Map of regions (coloured) with territorial authorities delineated by black lines. City names are in all upper case, and district names have initial capitals.

New Zealand is divided into sixteen regions (Māori : takiwā) for local government purposes. Eleven are administered by regional councils (the top tier of local government), and five are administered by unitary authorities, which are territorial authorities (the second tier of local government) that also perform the functions of regional councils. [1] [2] The Chatham Islands Council is similar to a unitary authority, authorised under its own legislation. [3]

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country has two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. It has a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, and its most populous city is Auckland.

Māori language Polynesian language spoken by New Zealand Māori

Māori, also known as te reo, is an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the Māori people, the indigenous population of New Zealand. Closely related to Cook Islands Māori, Tuamotuan, and Tahitian, it gained recognition as one of New Zealand's official languages in 1987. The number of speakers of the language has declined sharply since 1945, but a Māori language revitalisation effort slowed the decline, and the language has experienced a revival, particularly since about 2015.

Local government in New Zealand

New Zealand has a unitary system of government in which the authority of the central government defines sub-national entities. Local government in New Zealand has only the powers conferred upon it by Parliament.


Current regions

History and statutory basis

The regional councils are listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Local Government Act 2002, [4] along with reference to the Gazette notices that established them in 1989. [5] The Act requires regional councils to promote sustainable development  the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of their communities. [6]

Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend. The desired result is a state of society where living conditions and resources are used to continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural system. Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The current regions and most of their councils came into being through a local government reform in 1989 that took place under the Local Government Act 1974. The regional councils replaced the more than 700 ad hoc bodies that had been formed in the preceding century – roads boards, catchment boards, drainage boards, pest control boards, harbour boards, domain and reserve boards. [7] In addition they took over some roles that had previously been performed by county councils. Auckland Regional Council, formed in 1989, was replaced by Auckland Council, a unitary authority, in 2010.

1989 local government reforms

The 1989 local government reform was the most significant reform of local government in New Zealand in over a century. Some 850 local bodies were amalgamated into 86 local authorities, made up of regional and territorial levels.

Auckland Regional Council

The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) was the regional council of the Auckland Region. Its predecessor the Auckland Regional Authority (ARA) was formed in 1963 and became the ARC in 1989. The ARC was subsumed into the Auckland Council on 1 November 2010.

Auckland Council Unitary territorial authority in Auckland, New Zealand

The Auckland Council is the local government council for the Auckland Region in New Zealand. The governing body consists of a mayor and 20 councillors, elected from 13 wards. There are also 149 members of 21 local boards who make decisions on matters local to their communities. It is the largest council in Oceania, with a $3 billion annual budget, $29 billion of ratepayer equity, and 9,870 full-time staff as of 30 June 2016. The council began operating on 1 November 2010, combining the functions of the previous regional council and the region's seven city and district councils into one "super council" or "super city".

The boundaries of the regions are based largely on drainage basins. This anticipated the responsibilities of the Resource Management Act 1991. [8] Most regional boundaries conform with territorial authority boundaries but there are a number of exceptions. An example is Taupo District, split between four regions, although most of its area is in the Waikato region.

Drainage basin Area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet

A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water. The drainage basin includes all the surface water from rain runoff, snowmelt, and nearby streams that run downslope towards the shared outlet, as well as the groundwater underneath the earth's surface. Drainage basins connect into other drainage basins at lower elevations in a hierarchical pattern, with smaller sub-drainage basins, which in turn drain into another common outlet.

Resource Management Act 1991 New Zealand law promoting sustainable management of natural and physical resources

The Resource Management Act (RMA) passed in 1991 in New Zealand is a significant, and at times, controversial Act of Parliament. The RMA promotes the sustainable management of natural and physical resources such as land, air and water. New Zealand's Ministry for the Environment describes the RMA as New Zealand's principal legislation for environmental management.

Territorial authorities of New Zealand wikimedia list article

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. District councils serve a combination of rural and urban communities, while city councils administer the larger urban areas. Five territorial authorities 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.


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. 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.

A resource consent is the authorisation given to certain activities or uses of natural and physical resources required under the New Zealand Resource Management Act. Some activities may either be specifically authorised by the RMA or be permitted activities authorised by rules in plans. Any activities that are not permitted by the RMA, or by a rule in a plan, require a resource consent before they are carried out.

Other functions

Regional councils have responsibility for functions under other statutes; [17]

List of regions

Region name
(name in Māori if different)
Regional councilChairSeatsCouncil seatIslandArea (km²) [19] Population [20] Density


ISO 3166-2 Code
1 Northland
Te Tai Tokerau
Northland Regional Council Bill Shepherd [21] 9 Whangarei North 12,498179,10013.71NZ-NTL
2 Auckland (1)
Auckland Council Phil Goff 21 Auckland North4,9401,695,900326.78NZ-AUK
3 Waikato Waikato Regional Council Alan Livingston 14 Hamilton North23,900468,80018.79NZ-WKO
4 Bay of Plenty
Te Moana-a-Toi
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Doug Leeder 14 Whakatane North12,071305,70024.31NZ-BOP
5 Gisborne (1)(2)
Te Tai Rāwhiti
Gisborne District Council Rehette Stoltz 14 Gisborne North8,38649,1005.71NZ-GIS
6 Hawke's Bay
Te Matau-a-Māui
Hawke's Bay Regional Council Rex Graham9 Napier North14,137165,90011.42NZ-HKB
7 Taranaki Taranaki Regional Council David MacLeod 11 Stratford North7,254119,60016.07NZ-TKI
8 Manawatu-Wanganui
Horizons Regional Council Bruce Gordon 12 Palmerston North North22,221234,50010.55NZ-MWT
9 Wellington
Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara
Greater Wellington Regional Council Chris Laidlaw [22] 13 Wellington North8,049521,50062.73NZ-WGN
10 Tasman (1)
Te Tai-o-Aorere
Tasman District Council Richard Kempthorne 13 Richmond South 9,61652,1005.23NZ-TAS
11 Nelson (1)
Nelson City Council Rachel Reese 13 Nelson South42451,900119.34NZ-NSN
12 Marlborough (1)
Te Tauihu-o-te-waka
Marlborough District Council John Leggett14 Blenheim South10,45846,6004.35NZ-MBH
13 West Coast
Te Tai Poutini
West Coast Regional Council Andrew Robb7 Greymouth South23,24432,6001.4NZ-WTC
14 Canterbury
Canterbury Regional Council Margaret Bazley 14 Christchurch South44,508624,00013.48NZ-CAN
15 Otago
Otago Regional Council Stephen Woodhead 12 Dunedin South31,209229,2007.02NZ-OTA
16 Southland
Southland Regional Council Nicol Horrell 12 Invercargill South31,19599,1003.14NZ-STL

Notes: (1) These regions have unitary authorities . (2) The Gisborne Region is still widely but unofficially known by its former name (East Cape) or as East Coast.

Areas outside regional boundaries

Some outlying islands 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 subantarctic islands are inhabited only by a small number of Department of Conservation staff, and 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, [23] except for the Canterbury regional council, which is a mixture of elected councilors and government appointed commissioners. [24] Councils may use a first past the post or single transferable vote system. The chairperson is selected by the elected council members. [25]

Predecessors of current structure


The Auckland Regional Council was preceded by the Auckland Regional Authority (ARA), which existed from 1963 to 1989.


The Wellington Regional Council was first formed in 1980 from a merger of the Wellington Regional Planning Authority and the Wellington Regional Water Board. [26]

United councils

In 1978, legislation was passed enabling the formation of regions with united councils. Twenty regions were designated, excluding the Auckland and Wellington areas. For most of the country this was the first regional level of government since the abolition of provinces in 1876. Councillors were not elected directly – they were appointed from the various territorial local authorities (TLAs) 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. [7]

List of united councils
RegionUnited council formedLevy rates (1982/83)
NorthlandJanuary 1980$118,000
Thames ValleyJuly 1980$46,000
WaikatoOctober 1980$36,000
Bay of PlentyAugust 1979$17,000
TongariroNovember 1979$50,000
East CapeAugust 1979$16,000
Hawkes BayDecember 1983
TaranakiFebruary 1979$60,000
WanganuiMay 1979$81,000
WairarapaNovember 1978$33,000
ManawatuMay 19810
HorowhenuaJune 1980$47,000
Nelson BaysNovember 1978$84,000
MarlboroughDecember 1978$30,000
CanterburyMay 1979$605,000
West CoastNovember 1978$32,000
Coastal / North OtagoApril 1983
Clutha / Central OtagoNovember 1980$33,000
SouthlandMay 1979$88,000

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

See also

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  5. "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 - Part 1, Schedule 2" . Retrieved 17 July 2008.
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  10. Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(b)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  11. Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(c)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  12. Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(d)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  13. Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(e)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  14. Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(f)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  15. Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(fa)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991. NB this is a new paragraph added in 2005.
  16. Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(g)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  17. 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.
  18. Sections 135, 142, 150, and 154 Building Act 2004, Parliament of New Zealand.
  19. 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.
  20. "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2018 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018. For urban areas, "Subnational population estimates (UA, AU), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996, 2001, 2006-18 (2017 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  21. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. Forbes, Michael (30 June 2015). "Chris Laidlaw elected new GWRC chairman, rates set at 9.8 per cent". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
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