Mō te Kāwanatanga ā-Rohe i Aotearoa About local government in New Zealand

Understand how local government works in New Zealand.


Local government in New Zealand is currently comprised of 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities (of which 6 are unitary authorities, 13 are city councils, and 53 are district councils). These are collectively referred to as "local authorities."

Regional councils are primarily responsible for environmental management in their region, including flood control, air and water quality, and pest control. They can also be responsible for public transport, regional reserves and bulk water supply.

Territorial authorities (district and city councils) are responsible for delivering a wide array of services. These include infrastructure services such as roading, water supply, wastewater and stormwater services; refuse collection and disposal and recycling services; community facilities such as parks, reserves, libraries, swimming pools and community centres; resource management planning; and bylaw-making powers of specific matters including public health and safety, protection against nuisances, and minimising the potential for offensive behaviour in public places.

Unitary authorities are territorial authorities that also have the powers of a regional council. These include Auckland Council, Gisborne District Council, Tasman District Council, Nelson City Council, Marlborough District Council and Chatham Islands Council.

Below territorial authorities are community boards, which are bodies that can be established to advocate for their local community. They can also be delegated some decision-making responsibility on particular matters by their territorial authority. There are currently 110 community boards. These bodies are distinct from local boards, which are discussed further below.

Recent history

The current structure of local government in New Zealand arose out of major nation-wide local government reforms that were carried out in the late 1980s. These reforms replaced the old system of boroughs, towns, and counties, of which there were around 850, with 86 regional councils and territorial authorities.

Since this new structure was put in place, there have been a number of further changes. These include the abolition of the Nelson-Marlborough Regional Council in 1993, the union of Christchurch City and the former Banks Peninsula District in 2006, and the creation of the unitary authority of Auckland Council to replace Auckland Regional Council and 7 territorial authorities.

The establishment of Auckland Council saw the introduction of "local boards." These are local government bodies that share decision-making with the governing body of the unitary authority on non-regulatory matters in their local area. There are currently 21 local boards, all of which are in Auckland.

Identifying your Council

To identify your council, you can access the Geographic boundary viewer found on the Statistics New Zealand website, where you can filter by region, territorial authority, and wards.

Geographic boundary viewer (Statistics NZ website)

Alternatively, you can access the Electoral Commission's website. You can enter the name of your street to be given the name of your parliamentary electorate.

Find your electorate (Electoral Commission website)

Engaging with your Council

Anyone can take part in council processes. Members of the public can attend most council meetings and make submissions when the council is undertaking consultation.

Most councils use their websites to publicise issues where they are consulting the community. The documents are also generally available from council offices and at council service centres and public libraries. Councils are always encouraged to provide easy to understand summaries of their proposals and plans. They should also identify if you are to be affected by a decision, encourage you to make your views known, and provide you with reasons for their decisions.

If you want to be consulted and informed about the work of your council, seek out information about its proposals, plans and decisions. You can make an informed contribution to the council's work in your community if you become engaged in its processes.