Regions of New Zealand

Territorial authorities of New Zealand New Zealand Nelson, New Zealand

NorthlandAucklandAucklandAucklandWaikatoBay of PlentyGisborneHawke's BayTaranakiManawatū-WhanganuiWellingtonTasmanTasmanNelsonMarlboroughMarlboroughWest CoastWest CoastCanterburyOtagoSouthlandSouthlandRegions of New Zealand
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CategoryUnitary state
Location New Zealand
Populations32,600 (West Coast) – 1,642,800 (Auckland)
Areas450 km2 (172 sq mi) (Nelson) – 45,350 km2 (17,508 sq mi) (Canterbury)
GovernmentLocal government
SubdivisionsTerritorial authority
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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 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

Region name
(name in Māori if different)
Regional council Seats Council seat Island Area (km²)[21] Population[22] Density


ISO 3166-2 Code
1 Northland
Te Tai Tokerau
Northland Regional Council 9 Whangārei North 12,498 188,700 13.71 NZ-NTL
2 Auckland(1)
Auckland Council 21 Auckland North 4,940 1,642,800 326.78 NZ-AUK
3 Waikato Waikato Regional Council 14 Hamilton North 23,900 482,100 18.79 NZ-WKO
4 Bay of Plenty
Te Moana-a-Toi
Bay of Plenty Regional Council 14 Whakatāne North 12,071 324,200 24.31 NZ-BOP
5 Gisborne(1)(2)
Te Tai Rāwhiti
Gisborne District Council 14 Gisborne North 8,386 49,300 5.71 NZ-GIS
6 Hawke's Bay
Te Matau-a-Māui
Hawke's Bay Regional Council 9 Napier North 14,137 173,700 11.42 NZ-HKB
7 Taranaki Taranaki Regional Council 11 Stratford North 7,254 122,700 16.07 NZ-TKI
8 Manawatū-Whanganui Horizons Regional Council 12 Palmerston North North 22,221 234,500 10.55 NZ-MWT
9 Wellington
Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara
Greater Wellington Regional Council 13 Wellington North 8,049 527,800 62.73 NZ-WGN
10 Tasman(1)
Te Tai-o-Aorere
Tasman District Council 13 Richmond South 9,616 54,800 5.23 NZ-TAS
11 Nelson(1)
Nelson City Council 13 Nelson South 424 52,900 119.34 NZ-NSN
12 Marlborough(1)
Te Tauihu-o-te-waka
Marlborough District Council 14 Blenheim South 10,458 49,200 4.35 NZ-MBH
13 West Coast
Te Tai Poutini
West Coast Regional Council 7 Greymouth South 23,244 32,600 1.4 NZ-WTC
14 Canterbury
Canterbury Regional Council 14 Christchurch South 44,508 628,600 13.48 NZ-CAN
15 Otago
Otago Regional Council 12 Dunedin South 31,209 236,200 7.02 NZ-OTA
16 Southland
Southland Regional Council 12 Invercargill South 31,195 101,200 3.14 NZ-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 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. 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 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
Region United council formed Levy rates (1982/83)
Northland January 1980 $118,000
Thames Valley July 1980 $46,000
Waikato October 1980 $36,000
Bay of Plenty August 1979 $17,000
Tongariro November 1979 $50,000
East Cape August 1979 $16,000
Hawkes Bay December 1983
Taranaki February 1979 $60,000
Wanganui May 1979 $81,000
Wairarapa November 1978 $33,000
Manawatu May 1981 0
Horowhenua June 1980 $47,000
Nelson Bays November 1978 $84,000
Marlborough December 1978 $30,000
Canterbury May 1979 $605,000
West Coast November 1978 $32,000
Aorangi 1983
Coastal / North Otago April 1983
Clutha / Central Otago November 1980 $33,000
Southland May 1979 $88,000

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

See also


  1. ^ "2013 Census definitions and forms: U". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  2. ^ "Glossary". Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  3. ^ Chatham Islands Council Act 1995 Archived 12 July 2012 at, Parliament of New Zealand, 1995, Statute No 041, Commenced: 1 November 1995, retrieved 4 February 2008.
  4. ^ "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 - Interpretation". Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  5. ^ "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 - Part 1, Schedule 2". Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  6. ^ Relationship between the Local Government Act and the RMA Archived 25 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine Quality Planning The RMA Resource, retrieved 11 October 2007.
  7. ^ a b Bush, Graham (1995). Local Government & Politics in New Zealand (2nd ed.). Auckland University Press. ISBN 1-86940-126-3.
  8. ^ OECD Territorial Reviews OECD Territorial Reviews: The Metropolitan Region of Rotterdam-The Hague, Netherlands. OECD Publishing. 2016. p. 169. ISBN 9789264249387.
  9. ^ New Zealand Historical Atlas – McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor); David Bateman, 1997, Plate 98
  10. ^ "Property Asset Management Plan 2015-2025" (PDF). Taupo District Council. November 2017. p. 2. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  11. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(a)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  12. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(b)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  13. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(c)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  14. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(d)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  15. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(e)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  16. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(f)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  17. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(fa)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991. NB this is a new paragraph added in 2005.
  18. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(g)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  19. ^ 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, p. 130.
  20. ^ Sections 135, 142, 150, and 154 Building Act 2004, Parliament of New Zealand.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2019". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  23. ^ Soutar, Monty (1 March 2015). "East Coast places - Gisborne". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  24. ^ "NZ Outlying Islands Regional Information & Travel Information". New Zealand Tourism Guide. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  25. ^ Local Government Act 2002, s41(1)(a), Parliament of New Zealand
  26. ^ Gorman, Paul (30 March 2010). "ECan councillors sacked". The Press. Retrieved 17 August 2010
  27. ^ Local Government Act 2002, s41(1)(b), Parliament of New Zealand.
  28. ^ "Local Government (Rating) Act 2002". Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  29. ^ "Auckland Regional Authority, 1988". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  30. ^ Parks Network Plan (PDF). Greater Wellington Regional Council. 2011. p. 10. Retrieved 3 May 2014.