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Local government in New Zealand

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Title: Local government in New Zealand  
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Subject: Local government in New Zealand, Auckland Council, Unitary authority, Grahame Thorne, Regions of New Zealand
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Local government in New Zealand

New Zealand is a unitary state rather than a federation—regions are created by the authority of the central government, rather than the central government being created by the authority of the regions. Local government in New Zealand has only the powers conferred upon it by Parliament. These powers have traditionally been distinctly fewer than in some other countries. For example, police and education are run by central government, while the provision of low-cost housing is optional for local councils. Many of them used to control gas and electricity supply, but nearly all of that was privatised or centralised in the 1990s.


New Zealand has two tiers of local government. The top tier consists of regional councils, of which there are 11. The second tier consists of territorial authorities, of which there are 67. The territorial authorities comprise 12 city councils, 53 district councils, Auckland Council and Chatham Islands Council. Five territorial authorities are also unitary authorities, which perform the functions of a regional council in addition to those of a territorial authority. The small, isolated Chatham Islands have a council with its own special legislation that makes it very like a unitary authority.

New Zealand is divided into sixteen regions, administered by the eleven regional councils and the five unitary authorities. Most territorial authorities are wholly within one region, but there are a few that cross regional boundaries.

In each territorial authority there are commonly several community boards or area boards (see below). These form the lowest and weakest arm of local government.

Each of the regions and territorial authorities is governed by a council, which is directly elected by the residents of that region, district or city. Each council may use a system chosen by the outgoing council (after public consultation), either the bloc vote (viz. first-past-the-post in multi-member constituencies) or single transferable vote.

The external boundaries of an authority can be changed by an Order in Council or notices in the New Zealand Gazette.[1]

Local government jurisdictions


Regional councils all use a constituency system for elections, and the elected members elect one of their number to be chairperson. They set their own levels of rates, though the mechanism for collecting it usually involves channelling through the territorial authority collection system. Regional council duties include:

Cities and districts

The sixty-seven territorial authorities consist of twelve city councils, fifty-three district councils in more rural areas, Auckland Council and one council for the Chatham Islands. Each generally has a ward system of election, but an additional councillor is the mayor, who is elected at large and chairs the council. They too set their own levels of rates.

The territorial authorities may delegate powers to local community boards. These boards, instituted at the behest of either local citizens or territorial authorities, advocate community views but cannot levy taxes, appoint staff, or own property.

District health boards

New Zealand's health sector was restructured several times during the 20th century. The most recent restructuring occurred in 2001, with new legislation creating twenty-one district health boards (DHBs). These boards are responsible for the oversight of health and disability services within their communities. Seven members of each district health board are directly elected by residents of their area using the single transferable vote system. In addition, the Minister of Health may appoint up to four members.

See also


  1. ^

External links

  • Local Councils (maintained by the Department of Internal Affairs)
  • Envirolink - a regional council driven funding scheme
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