Regions of New Zealand

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Regions of New Zealand Regions of NZ Numbered.svgNorthlandAucklandAucklandAucklandBay of PlentyGisborneHawke's BayWellingtonTasmanTasmanNelsonMarlboroughMarlboroughWest CoastWest CoastCanterburySouthlandSouthland
Regions of New Zealand
Category Unitary state
LocationFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Number 16
Populations32,700 (West Coast) – 1,695,200 (Auckland)
Areas450 km2 (172 sq mi) (Nelson) – 45,350 km2 (17,508 sq mi) (Canterbury)

New Zealand is divided into sixteen regions (Māori : Ngā 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 not a region but is similar to a unitary authority, authorised under its own legislation. [3]


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]

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.

The boundaries of the regions are based largely on drainage basins. [8] This anticipated the responsibilities of the Resource Management Act 1991. [9] 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. [10] 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:

Other functions

Regional councils have responsibility for functions under other statutes; [19]

List of regions

(name in Māori if different)
Regional councilSeatsCouncil seatIslandLand area
(km2) [21]
Population [22] Density


ISO 3166-2 Code
1 Northland
Te Tai Tokerau
Northland Regional Council 9 Whangārei North 12,504201,50016.11NZ-NTL
2 Auckland (1)
Auckland Council 21 Auckland North4,9411,695,200343.09NZ-AUK
3 Waikato Waikato Regional Council 14 Hamilton North23,900513,80021.50NZ-WKO
4 Bay of Plenty
Te Moana-a-Toi
Bay of Plenty Regional Council 14 Whakatāne North12,072347,70028.80NZ-BOP
5 Gisborne (1)(2)
Te Tai Rāwhiti
Gisborne District Council 14 Gisborne North8,38552,1006.21NZ-GIS
6 Hawke's Bay
Te Matau-a-Māui
Hawke's Bay Regional Council 9 Napier North14,138182,70012.92NZ-HKB
7 Taranaki Taranaki Regional Council 11 Stratford North7,254127,30017.55NZ-TKI
8 Manawatū-Whanganui Horizons Regional Council 12 Palmerston North North22,221258,20011.62NZ-MWT
9 Wellington
Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara
Greater Wellington Regional Council 13 Wellington North8,049543,50067.52NZ-WGN
10 Tasman (1)
Te Tai-o-Aorere
Tasman District Council 13 Richmond South 9,61658,7006.10NZ-TAS
11 Nelson (1)
Nelson City Council 13 Nelson South42254,500129.15NZ-NSN
12 Marlborough (1)
Te Tauihu-o-te-waka
Marlborough District Council 14 Blenheim South10,45851,9004.94NZ-MBH
13 West Coast
Te Tai Poutini
West Coast Regional Council 7 Greymouth South23,24532,7001.41NZ-WTC
14 Canterbury
Environment Canterbury 14 Christchurch South44,504655,00014.72NZ-CAN
15 Otago
Otago Regional Council 12 Dunedin South31,186246,0007.89NZ-OTA
16 Southland
Southland Regional Council 12 Invercargill South31,196102,4003.28NZ-STL


(1) These regions have unitary authorities .

(2) The Gisborne Region is still widely but unofficially known by its former name East Cape or as the East Coast. [23]

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 1991. The Kermadecs and the subantarctic islands are inhabited only by a small number of Department of Conservation staff and there is no regional council for these islands. [24]


Regional councils are popularly elected every three years in accordance with the Local Electoral Act 2001, [25] except for the Canterbury regional council, which is a mixture of elected councilors and government appointed commissioners. [26] Councils may use a first-past-the-post or single transferable vote system. The chairperson is selected by the elected council members. [27]


Regional councils are funded through property rates, subsidies from central government, income from trading, and user charges for certain public services. Councils set their own levels of rates, though the mechanism for collecting it usually involves channelling through the territorial authority collection system. [28]

Predecessors of current structure


The Auckland Regional Council (now the Auckland Council) was preceded by the Auckland Regional Authority (ARA), which existed from 1963 to 1989. [29]


The Wellington Regional Council was first formed in 1980 from a merger of the Wellington Regional Planning Authority and the Wellington Regional Water Board. [30]

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
Hawke's 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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