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New Zealand

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The region is the top tier of local government in New Zealand. There are 16 regions of New Zealand. Twelve are governed by an elected regional council, while four are governed by territorial authorities (the second tier of local government) which also perform the functions of a regional council and thus are known as unitary authorities. The Chatham Islands Council is similar to a unitary authority, but is authorised under its own enabling legislation.[1]


History and statutory basis

A regional council means one of the regional councils listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Local Government Act 2002.[2] That schedule lists the regional councils of New Zealand and their Gazette notices following their establishment in 1989.[3] The Local Government Act 2002 also requires regional councils to promote sustainable development – the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of their communities.[4]

The current regions and their councils came about in 1989, as a result of an amalgamation procedure carried out under the Local Government Act 1974. The regional councils replaced county councils, which had themselves replaced provincial councils. The geographic extent of the regions was based largely on drainage basins, the regional boundaries being major drainage divides such as the Southern Alps. This anticipated the responsibilities of the Resource Management Act 1991.[5] Some regional boundaries conform with territorial authority boundaries but there are many exceptions. Territorial authority boundaries may be adjusted to conform with the regional boundaries. An example is the Franklin District, which lies in both the Auckland Region and the Waikato Region: in 2010 this district is scheduled to be dissolved and its extent divided between a new Auckland territorial authority and the Waikato District.


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; while 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.

  • Planning for the integrated management of natural and physical resources [6]
  • Planning for regionally significant land uses [7]
  • Soil conservation, water quality and quantity, water ecosystems, natural hazards, hazardous substances [8]
  • Controlling the coastal marine area [9]
  • Controlling via resource consents the taking, use, damming or diverting of water [10]
  • Controlling via resource consents the discharge of contaminants [11]
  • Establishing of rules in a regional plan to allocate water [12]
  • Controlling via resource consents the beds of waterbodies [13]

Other functions

Regional councils also have responsibility for a number of other functions under other statutes;[14]

  • flood and river control under the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act 1941,
  • reserves vested in regional councils under the Reserves Act 1977,
  • civil defence under the Civil Defence Act 1990,
  • regional pest management under the Biosecurity Act 1993,
  • harbour and water navigation under the Maritime Transport Act 1994,
  • hazardous waste under the HSNO Act 1996, and,
  • public transport planning under the Land Transport Act 1998.

Regional councils were also given responsibilities for the supervision of the safety of dams in the Building Act 2004.[15]

List of regions

Northland Auckland Auckland Auckland Waikato Bay of Plenty East Cape Hawke's Bay Taranaki Manawatu-Wanganui Wellington Tasman Tasman Nelson Marlborough Marlborough West Coast West Coast Canterbury Otago Southland Southland Regions of New Zealand
About this image
Region Regional council Council seat Island Area (km²)[16] Population[17] ISO 3166-2 Code
1 Northland Northland Regional Council Whangarei North 13,941 155,800 NZ-NTL
2 Auckland Auckland Regional Council Auckland North 5,600 1,436,400 NZ-AUK
3 Waikato Environment Waikato Hamilton North 25,598 406,600 NZ-WKO
4 Bay of Plenty Bay of Plenty Regional Council Whakatane North 12,447 272,300 NZ-BOP
5 East Cape (1) Gisborne District Council Gisborne North 8,351 46,200 NZ-GIS
6 Hawke's Bay Hawke's Bay Regional Council Napier North 14,164 153,400 NZ-HKB
7 Taranaki Taranaki Regional Council Stratford North 7,273 108,100 NZ-TKI
8 Manawatu-Wanganui Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council
(Horizons Regional Council)
Palmerston North North 22,215 230,200 NZ-MWT
9 Wellington Wellington Regional Council Wellington North 8,124 478,600 NZ-WGN
10 Tasman (1) Tasman District Council Richmond South 9,786 46,800 NZ-TAS
11 Nelson (1) Nelson City Council Nelson South 445 45,000 NZ-NSN
12 Marlborough (1) Marlborough District Council Blenheim South 12,484 45,000 NZ-MBH
13 West Coast West Coast Regional Council Greymouth South 23,336 32,600 NZ-WTC
14 Canterbury Canterbury Regional Council Christchurch South 45,346 559,200 NZ-CAN
15 Otago Otago Regional Council Dunedin South 31,990 205,400 NZ-OTA
16 Southland Southland Regional Council Invercargill South 34,347 93,500 NZ-STL

(1) These regions are unitary authorities.

Areas outside regional boundaries

New Zealand has a number of outlying islands that 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 sub-Antarctic islands are inhabited only by a small number of Department of Conservation staff. 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.[18] Councils may use a first past the post or single transferable vote system. The chairperson of a regional council is selected by the elected council members.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Chatham Islands Council Act 1995, Parliament of New Zealand, 1995, Statute No 041, Commenced: 1 November 1995, retrieved 4 February 2008.
  2. ^ "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 - Interpretation". Retrieved 2008-07-17.  
  3. ^ "Local Government Act 2002 No 84 - Part 1, Schedule 2". Retrieved 2008-07-17.  
  4. ^ Relationship between the Local Government Act and the RMA Quality Planning The RMA Resource, retrieved 11 October 2007.
  5. ^ New Zealand Historical Atlas – McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor); David Bateman, 1997, Plate 98
  6. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(a)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  7. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(b)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  8. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(c)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  9. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(d)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  10. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(e)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  11. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(f)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  12. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(fa)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991. NB this is a new subsection added in 2005.
  13. ^ Resource Management Act, Section 30(1)(g)- Parliament of New Zealand, 1991
  14. ^ Harris, R. (2004) 'Local government and development legislation', Chapter 3G, Handbook of Environmental Law, Editor Harris, R., ISBN 0959785183, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, Wellington 2004, page 130.
  15. ^ Sections 135, 142, 150, and 154 Building Act 2004, Parliament of New Zealand.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2009". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-23.  
  18. ^ Local Government Act 2002, s41(1)(a), Parliament of New Zealand.
  19. ^ Local Government Act 2002, s41(1)(b), Parliament of New Zealand.


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