Regions of New Zealand

Northland Auckland Auckland Auckland Waikato Bay of Plenty Gisborne Hawke's Bay Taranaki Manawatu-Wanganui Wellington Tasman Tasman Nelson Marlborough Marlborough West Coast West Coast Canterbury Otago Southland SouthlandRegions of New Zealand
About this image
Category Unitary state
Location New Zealand
Number 16
Populations 47,100 (Gisborne) – 1,527,100 (Auckland)
Areas 450 km2 (172 sq mi) (Nelson) – 45,350 km2 (17,508 sq mi) (Canterbury)
Government Local government
Subdivisions Territorial authority
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
New Zealand
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, although a unitary state, is divided into sixteen regions for devolved local government. 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. Auckland Regional Council, formed in 1989, was replaced by Auckland Council, a unitary authority, in 2010.

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.


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.

Other functions

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

List of regions

Region Regional council Chair Council seat Island Area (km²)[19] Population[20] ISO 3166-2 Code
1 Northland Northland Regional Council Bill Shepherd[21] Whangarei North 12,498 171,400 NZ-NTL
2 Auckland (1) Auckland Council Phil Goff Auckland North 4,940 1,614,300 NZ-AUK
3 Waikato Waikato Regional Council Paula Southgate Hamilton North 23,900 449,200 NZ-WKO
4 Bay of Plenty Bay of Plenty Regional Council John Cronin Whakatāne North 12,071 293,500 NZ-BOP
5 Gisborne (1)(2) Gisborne District Council Meng Foon Gisborne North 8,386 47,900 NZ-GIS
6 Hawke's Bay Hawke's Bay Regional Council Rex Graham Napier North 14,137 161,500 NZ-HKB
7 Taranaki Taranaki Regional Council David MacLeod Stratford North 7,254 116,600 NZ-TKI
8 Manawatu-Whanganui Horizons Regional Council Bruce Gordon Palmerston North North 22,221 234,500 NZ-MWT
9 Wellington Greater Wellington Regional Council Chris Laidlaw[22] Wellington North 8,049 504,900 NZ-WGN
10 Tasman (1) Tasman District Council Richard Kempthorne Richmond South 9,616 50,300 NZ-TAS
11 Nelson (1) Nelson City Council Rachel Reese Nelson South 424 50,600 NZ-NSN
12 Marlborough (1) Marlborough District Council John Leggett Blenheim South 10,458 45,500 NZ-MBH
13 West Coast West Coast Regional Council Ross Scarlett Greymouth South 23,244 32,600 NZ-WTC
14 Canterbury Canterbury Regional Council Margaret Bazley Christchurch South 44,508 600,100 NZ-CAN
15 Otago Otago Regional Council Stephen Woodhead Dunedin South 31,209 219,200 NZ-OTA
16 Southland Southland Regional Council Ali Timms Invercargill South 31,195 98,000 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 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]

Distance table

New Zealand Distance Table
36178611405642411345389556New Plymouth
5175749283883941133157344233Palmerston North
15812331587638281179256910035186711709385357799602 Whangarei

Distance in kilometres from the corresponding city on the X-Y axis.

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
Region United council formed Rates levy (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 Otago November 1980$33,000
SouthlandMay 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, 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 2008-07-17.
  5. "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 - Part 1, Schedule 2". Retrieved 2008-07-17.
  6. Relationship between the Local Government Act and the RMA Quality Planning The RMA Resource, retrieved 11 October 2007.
  7. 1 2 Bush, Graham (1995). Local Government & Politics in New Zealand (2nd ed.). Auckland University Press. ISBN 1-86940-126-3.
  8. New Zealand Historical Atlas  McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor); David Bateman, 1997, Plate 98
  9. Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(a)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  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, 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 2016 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016. For urban areas, "Subnational population estimates (UA, AU), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996, 2001, 2006-16 (2017 boundary)". Statistics New Zealand. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  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.
  23. Local Government Act 2002, s41(1)(a), Parliament of New Zealand
  24. Gorman, Paul (30 March 2010). "ECan councillors sacked". The Press. Retrieved 17 August 2010
  25. Local Government Act 2002, s41(1)(b), Parliament of New Zealand.
  26. Parks Network Plan (PDF). Greater Wellington Regional Council. 2011. p. 10. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
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