The present structure of local government in New Zealand has arisen out of major nation-wide local government reforms carried out in the late 1980s. These reforms resulted in the constitution of 13 regional councils, 74 territorial authorities (either city or district councils, sometimes simply referred to as local councils) and 159 community boards.
Since the new structure was put in place, there has been the union of Christchurch City and the former Banks Peninsula District, the abolition of the Nelson-Marlborough Regional Council and the constitution of the new Auckland Council (which saw the abolition of the Auckland Regional Council and seven territorial authorities, and also resulted in the abolition of 28 community boards). In addition, the Auckland reform in 2010 saw the introduction of a new local government structure called a ‘local board’ to share decision-making with the governing body of the council on certain matters.
Today, there are 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities across New Zealand including six which also have the powers of a regional council (called unitary authorities). In addition, there are 21 local boards (all in Auckland) and a total of 110 community boards across the country.
Regional councils are primarily responsible for environmental management in their region, including flood control, air and water quality, and pest control. Regional councils may also be responsible for public transport, regional reserves and bulk water supply.
City and district councils have a wide range of responsibilities including 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 on specific matters and more generally relating to public health and safety, protection against nuisances and minimising the potential for offensive behaviour in public places.
Local boards share decision-making with the governing body of the council (must be a unitary authority) on non-regulatory matters in their local area and are democratically accountable for their decisions. Community boards, on the other hand, are primarily advocacy bodies for their local community but may be delegated decision-making responsibility on particular matters by the council.
You can find out more information about your own regional or local council, local or community board (if any) by visiting the council’s website.
Whether you know the name of your council or not, you can click on the appropriate area of the country on the map on the homepage of this website. This will take you to a list of names of the regional council (if there is one) and local councils in that area.
Alternatively, you can try browsing the Statistics New Zealand website. At the top of the screen under ‘Tools’ you will find ‘Geographic data and maps’ and under that a ‘Geographic boundary viewer’.
Another option for finding your local council (or Member of Parliament) is through the Land Information New Zealand website. Enter the name of your street and it will give you the name of your local territorial authority and your parliamentary electorate.
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.