1989 local government reforms

The 1989 local government reform was the most significant reform of local government in New Zealand in over a century. Some 850 local bodies were amalgamated into 86 local authorities, made up of regional and territorial levels.


The last major local government reform was carried out through the abolition of provincial government. With effect of 1 January 1877, local government was vested in elected borough and county councils. The Counties Bill of 1876 created 63 counties out of the rural parts of the former provinces.[1] Over the years, many new bodies were set up. Some of these bodies were multi-purpose, whilst others (for example harbour boards) were single-purpose.[2] The Local Government Act 1974 consolidated the previous law relating to local government that applied to territorial local authorities, regional and district council bodies. It enabled the establishment of regional councils, but these were not established until the 1989 reform.[2]


The Labour Party had the reform of local government as one of its policies for the 1984 election but without much detail; the proposals were developed during the first term of the Fourth Labour Government following the party's win in 1984. Michael Bassett was Minister of Local Government and he appointed a Local Government Commission,[2] which was chaired by Brian Elwood from 1 April 1985 to 1 November 1992.[3][4] The government had given the commission a guarantee that their findings would be regarded as binding.[4] The resulting local government reform was undertaken along the lines of neo-liberal economic theory, and was done in conjunction with the economic reform that have become known as Rogernomics.[2] Some 850 entities were amalgamated into 86 local authorities, made up of regional and territorial levels.[2] Of the 850 entities, 249 were municipalities;[5] the remainder were harbour boards, catchment boards, and drainage boards. Brian Rudman, a journalist and editorial writer for The New Zealand Herald, called the reforms "revolutionary".[4]

Results of the reform

Regional authorities

New Zealand was divided into 14 regions, of which 13 were regional authorities, and the remaining one, Gisborne, was a unitary authority. Unitary authorities in New Zealand are district (or city) authorities that also fulfil the function of a regional authority.[6]

Region Regional council Council seat Island
Unitary authorities
1 Gisborne Gisborne District Council Gisborne North
Regional authorities
1 Northland Northland Regional Council Whangarei North
2 Auckland Auckland Regional Council Auckland North
3 Waikato Waikato Regional Council Hamilton North
4 Bay of Plenty Bay of Plenty Regional Council Whakatane North
5 Hawke's Bay Hawke's Bay Regional Council Napier North
6 Taranaki Taranaki Regional Council Stratford North
7 Manawatu-Wanganui Horizons Regional Council Palmerston North North
8 Wellington Greater Wellington Regional Council Wellington North
9 Nelson-Marlborough Nelson-Marlborough Regional Council Blenheim South
10 West Coast West Coast Regional Council Greymouth South
11 Canterbury Canterbury Regional Council Christchurch South
12 Otago Otago Regional Council Dunedin South
13 Southland Southland Regional Council Invercargill South

Territorial authorities

At a territorial level, district and city authorities were created. The area of a district may belong to more than one regional authority.

Name Seat Region(s) Island
1 Far North District Kaikohe Northland North
2 Whangarei District Whangarei Northland North
3 Kaipara District Dargaville Northland North
4 Rodney District Orewa Auckland North
5 Auckland City Auckland Auckland North
6 North Shore City Takapuna Auckland North
7 Waitakere City Henderson Auckland North
8 Manukau City Manukau Auckland North
9 Papakura District Papakura Auckland North
10 Franklin District Pukekohe Waikato (60.18%)
Auckland (39.82%)
11 Thames-Coromandel District Thames Waikato North
12 Hauraki District Paeroa Waikato North
13 Waikato District Ngaruawahia Waikato North
14 Matamata-Piako District Te Aroha Waikato North
15 Hamilton City Hamilton Waikato North
16 Waipa District Te Awamutu Waikato North
17 South Waikato District Tokoroa Waikato North
18 Otorohanga District Otorohanga Waikato North
19 Waitomo District Te Kuiti Waikato (94.87%)
Manawatu-Wanganui (5.13%)
20 Taupo District Taupo Waikato (73.74%)
Bay of Plenty (14.31%)
Hawke's Bay (11.26%)
Manawatu-Wanganui (0.69%)
21 Western Bay of Plenty District Greerton, Tauranga City Bay of Plenty North
22 Tauranga District Tauranga Bay of Plenty North
23 Opotiki District Opotiki Bay of Plenty North
24 Whakatane District Whakatane Bay of Plenty North
25 Rotorua District Rotorua Bay of Plenty (61.52%)
Waikato (38.48%)
26 Kawerau District Kawerau Bay of Plenty North
27 Gisborne District Gisborne Gisborne (unitary authority) North
28 Wairoa District Wairoa Hawke's Bay North
29 Hastings District Hastings Hawke's Bay North
30 Napier City Napier Hawke's Bay North
31 Central Hawke's Bay District Waipawa Hawke's Bay North
32 New Plymouth District New Plymouth Taranaki North
33 Stratford District Stratford Taranaki (68.13%)
Manawatu-Wanganui (31.87%)
34 South Taranaki District Hawera Taranaki North
35 Ruapehu District Taumarunui Manawatu-Wanganui North
36 Rangitikei District Marton Manawatu-Wanganui (86.37%)
Hawke's Bay (13.63%)
37 Wanganui District Wanganui Manawatu-Wanganui North
38 Manawatu District Feilding Manawatu-Wanganui North
39 Palmerston North City Palmerston North Manawatu-Wanganui North
40 Tararua District Dannevirke Manawatu-Wanganui (98.42%)
Wellington (1.58%)
41 Horowhenua District Levin Manawatu-Wanganui North
42 Masterton District Masterton Wellington North
43 Kapiti Coast District Paraparaumu Wellington North
44 Carterton District Carterton Wellington North
45 South Wairarapa District Martinborough Wellington North
46 Upper Hutt City Upper Hutt Wellington North
47 Porirua City Porirua Wellington North
48 Hutt City Lower Hutt Wellington North
49 Wellington City Wellington Wellington North
50 Tasman District Richmond Nelson-Marlborough South
51 Nelson City Nelson Nelson-Marlborough South
52 Marlborough District Blenheim Nelson-Marlborough South
53 Kaikoura District Kaikoura Nelson-Marlborough South
54 Buller District Westport West Coast South
55 Grey District Greymouth West Coast South
56 Westland District Hokitika West Coast South
57 Hurunui District Amberley Canterbury South
58 Selwyn District Rolleston Canterbury South
59 Waimakariri District Rangiora Canterbury South
60 Christchurch City Christchurch Canterbury South
61 Banks Peninsula Lyttelton Canterbury South
62 Ashburton District Ashburton Canterbury South
63 Mackenzie District Fairlie Canterbury South
64 Timaru District Timaru Canterbury South
65 Waimate District Waimate Canterbury South
66 Waitaki District Oamaru Canterbury (59.61%)
Otago (40.39%)
67 Queenstown-Lakes District Queenstown Otago South
68 Central Otago District Alexandra Otago South
69 Dunedin City Dunedin Otago South
70 Clutha District Balclutha Otago South
71 Southland District Invercargill Southland South
72 Gore District Gore Southland South
73 Invercargill City Invercargill Southland South


  1. McKinnon, Malcolm (13 July 2012). "Colonial and provincial government - Julius Vogel and the abolition of provincial government". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  2. Derby, Mark (13 July 2012). "Local and regional government - Reforming local government". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  3. "Commission Members since 1947". Local Government Commission. Archived from the original on 7 February 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  4. Rudman, Brian (15 August 2007). "Brian Rudman: Sir Brian Elwood struck the right note with big reforms of 1989". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  5. Sancton, Andrew (2000). Merger Mania. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0773521631. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  6. "Unitary authority". Nelson City Council. 5 May 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
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