Territorial authorities are the second tier of local government in New Zealand, below regional councils. There are 67 territorial authorities: 12 city councils, 53 district councils, Auckland Council and Chatham Islands Council. Six territorial authorities (Auckland Council, Nelson City Council, the Gisborne, Tasman, and Marlborough district councils and Chatham Islands Council) also perform the functions of a regional council and thus are unitary authorities. Territorial authority districts are not subdivisions of regions, and some of them fall within more than one region. Taupo District has the distinction of straddling the boundaries of four different regions (see below). Regional council areas are based on water catchment areas, whereas territorial authorities are based on community of interest and road access. Regional councils are responsible for the administration of many environmental and public transport matters, while the territorial authorities administer local roading and reserves, sewerage, building consents, the land use and subdivision aspects of resource management, and other local matters. Some activities are delegated to council-controlled organisations.
The word “Council” is omitted from the names of the territorial authorities in this section.
|Name||Seat||Area (km2)||Population||Density (/km2)||Region(s)|
|Far North District||Kaikohe||7,505||61,200||8.15||Northland|
|Auckland||Auckland||5,600||1,570,500||280.45||Auckland (Unitary authority)|
|Matamata-Piako District||Te Aroha||1,755||33,700||19.20||Waikato|
|Waipa District||Te Awamutu||1,473||50,400||34.22||Waikato|
|South Waikato District||Tokoroa||1,814||23,500||12.95||Waikato|
|Waitomo District||Te Kuiti||3,551||9,530||2.68||Waikato (94.87%)
|Taupo District||Taupo||6,955||35,600||5.12||Waikato (73.74%)
Bay of Plenty(14.31%)
|Western Bay of Plenty District||Greerton, Tauranga City||2,120||46,800||22.08||Bay of Plenty|
|Tauranga City||Tauranga||168||124,600||741.67||Bay of Plenty|
|Opotiki District||Opotiki||3,098||8,800||2.84||Bay of Plenty|
|Whakatane District||Whakatane||4,441||34,600||7.79||Bay of Plenty|
|Rotorua District||Rotorua||2,614||69,200||26.47||Bay of Plenty (61.52%)
|Kawerau District||Kawerau||22||6,660||302.73||Bay of Plenty|
|Gisborne District||Gisborne||8,351||47,400||5.68||Gisborne (Unitary authority)|
|Wairoa District||Wairoa||4,124||8,180||1.98||Hawke’s Bay|
|Hastings District||Hastings||5,218||77,900||14.93||Hawke’s Bay|
|Napier City||Napier||106||60,400||569.81||Hawke’s Bay|
|Central Hawke’s Bay District||Waipawa||3,324||13,450||4.05||Hawke’s Bay|
|New Plymouth District||New Plymouth||2,225||79,000||35.51||Taranaki|
|Stratford District||Stratford||2,161||9,230||4.27||Taranaki (68.13%)
|South Taranaki District||Hawera||3,577||27,700||7.74||Taranaki|
|Rangitikei District||Marton||4,476||14,700||3.28||Manawatu-Wanganui (86.37%)
Hawke’s Bay (13.63%)
|Palmerston North City||Palmerston North||337||85,500||253.71||Manawatu-Wanganui|
|Tararua District||Dannevirke||4,367||17,400||3.98||Manawatu-Wanganui (98.42%)
|Kapiti Coast District||Paraparaumu||733||51,400||70.12||Wellington|
|South Wairarapa District||Martinborough||2,452||10,000||4.08||Wellington|
|Upper Hutt City||Upper Hutt||542||42,000||77.49||Wellington|
|Hutt City||Lower Hutt||377||102,000||270.56||Wellington|
- Population as of June 2015 estimate.
|Name||Seat||Area (km2)||Population||Density (per km2)||Region(s)|
|Tasman District||Richmond||9,786||49,500||5.06||unitary authority|
|Nelson City||Nelson||445||49,900||112.13||unitary authority|
|Marlborough District||Blenheim||12,484||45,300||3.63||unitary authority|
|Buller District||Westport||7,950||10,350||1.30||West Coast|
|Grey District||Greymouth||3,516||13,650||3.88||West Coast|
|Westland District||Hokitika||11,870||8,720||0.73||West Coast|
|Waitaki District||Oamaru||7,212||21,900||3.04||Canterbury (59.61%)
|Central Otago District||Alexandra||9,966||19,200||1.93||Otago|
- Population as of June 2015 estimate.
- Total of Christchurch City and Banks Peninsula areas.
- Includes Stewart Island/Rakiura, also listed separately below, and Solander Islands .
|Part of Southland District||Invercargill, South Island||1746||402||Southland|
- Chatham Islands Territory is a district governed by the Chatham Islands Council, a unitary authority.
There are a number of islands where the Minister of Local Government is the territorial authority, two of which have a ‘permanent population and/or permanent buildings and structures.’ The main islands are listed below (population according to 2001 census in parenthesis):
- Mayor Island/Tuhua (3)
- Motiti Island (30)
- Whakaari/White Island
- Moutohora Island
- Bare Island
In addition, seven of the nine groups of the New Zealand Outlying Islands are outside of any territorial authority:
- Kermadec Islands (3)
- Three Kings Islands
- Bounty Islands
- The Snares
- Antipodes Islands
- Auckland Islands
- Campbell Islands
1989 local government reforms
For many decades until the local government reforms of 1989, a borough with more than 20,000 people could be proclaimed a city. The boundaries of councils tended to follow the edge of the built-up area, so little distinction was made between the urban area and the local government area.
New Zealand’s local government structural arrangements were significantly reformed by the Local Government Commission in 1989 when approximately 700 councils and special purpose bodies were amalgamated to create 87 new local authorities. Regional councils were reduced in number from 20 to 13, territorial authorities (city/district councils) from 200 to 75, and special purpose bodies from over 400 to 7. The new district and city councils were generally much larger and most covered substantial areas of both urban and rural land. Many places that once had a city council were now being administered by a district council.
As a result, the term “city” began to take on two meanings.
The word “city” came to be used in a less formal sense to describe major urban areas independent of local body boundaries. This informal usage is jealously guarded. Gisborne, for example, adamantly described itself as the first city in the world to see the new millennium. Gisborne is administered by a district council, but its status as a city is not generally disputed.
Under the current law the minimum population for a new city is 50,000.
Changes since 1989
Since the 1989 reorganisations, there have been few major reorganisations or status changes in local government. Incomplete list:
- 1991: Invercargill re-proclaimed a city.
- 1992: Nelson-Marlborough Regional Council abolished by a Local Government Amendment Act. Of its territorial authorities, Kaikoura District was transferred to the Canterbury Region, and Nelson City and Tasman and Marlborough districts became unitary authorities.
- 1995: The Chatham Islands County was dissolved and reconstituted by a specific Act of Parliament as the “Chatham Islands Territory”, with powers similar to those of territorial authorities and some functions similar to those of a regional council.
- 2004: Tauranga became a city again on 1 March.
- 2006: Banks Peninsula District merged into Christchurch City as a result of 2005 referendum.
- 2010: Auckland Council, a unitary authority, replaced seven local councils and the regional council.
Reports on completed reorganisation proposals since 1999 are available on the Local Government Commission’s site (link below).
2007–2009 Royal Commission on Auckland Governance
On 26 March 2009, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance recommended the Rodney, North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland City, Manukau, Papakura and Franklin territorial councils and the Auckland Regional Council be abolished and the entire Auckland region to be amalgamated into one “supercity”. The area would consist of one city council (with statutory provision for three Maori councillors), four urban local councils, and two rural local councils:
- Rodney local council would lose Orewa, Dairy Flat, and Whangaparaoa but retain the remainder of the current Rodney District. The split areas as well as the current North Shore City would form a Waitemata local council.
- Waitakere local council would consist of the current Waitakere City as well as the Avondale area.
- Tamaki Makaurau would consist of the current Auckland City and Otahuhu (excluding CBD)
- Manukau local council would consist of the urban parts of the current Manukau City and of the Papakura District.
- Hunua local council would consist of the entire Franklin District, much of which is currently in the Waikato Region, along with rural areas of the current Papakura District and Manukau City.
- The entire Papakura District would be dissolved between urban and rural councils.
The National-led Government responded within about a week. Its proposal, which will go to a Select Committee, has the supercity and many community boards but no local councils and for the first election no separate seats for Maori.
Public reaction to the Royal Commission report was mixed, especially in regards to the Government’s amended proposal. Auckland Mayor John Banks supported the amended merger plans.
Criticism of the amended proposal came largely from residents in Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore Cities. In addition, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples spoke against the exclusion of the Maori seats, as recommended by the Royal Commission. Opposition Leader Phil Goff called for a referendum on the issue.
Failed proposed changes
- 2015: Proposals to amalgamate local councils in Wellington and Northland were accepted by the Local Government Commission for consideration, although following consultation they ultimately were not formed into a final proposal. The status quo remains.
- 2015: Amalgamation of four local councils and the regional council in Hawke’s Bay was proposed by the Local Government Commission. A district wide referendum was held in Sep-2015, and the proposal was defeated by 66% of voters.