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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Major Types of Local Authorities in New Zealand

(excluding education authorities, licensing trusts, airport authorities, domain and public hall boards, and cemetery trusts)

Local authorities fall within two main categories: general-purpose territorial authorities and special-purpose, or ad hoc authorities. There are several types of territorial local authorities:

Territorial Local Authorities
County councils 115
City and borough councils 144
Town councils (independent) 14
Town councils (dependent) 9
Road boards 3
Subtotal 275
Special-purpose Authorities
Catchment boards and commissions 16
Electric power boards 41
Electric power and gas boards 2
*Fire authorities 238
Harbour boards 32
Harbour bridge authority 1
Hospital boards 37
Land drainage boards 32
Local railway boards 1
Milk boards 52
Nassella tussock boards 2
Plantation boards 1
Rabbit boards 180
River boards 10
River valley authority 1
Road tunnel authorities 1
Transport boards 2
Underground water authorities 3
Urban drainage boards 5
Water supply boards 1
Subtotal 658
Grand total 933

*Includes 178 where the board is a territorial local authority.

†Includes 36 where the board is a territorial local authority.


These are administrative units primarily intended for the administration of predominantly rural areas, although today, as a consequence of urban expansion, some counties include heavily urbanised areas. There is now no legislative authority for the establishment of new counties otherwise than by the merger of existing counties. Where an urban district under county council control contains at least 200 persons or 60 dwellings, with a density of at least one person to the acre or one dwelling to 3 acres, the county council may constitute the urban district as a county town.

County town committees, appointed by the parent county councils, act in an advisory capacity to their parent councils in respect of the towns concerned. There are at present 117 counties, of which 115 are controlled by county councils. The two remaining cover sparsely settled and relatively isolated areas in which the need for county government has not yet arisen.


The title of city is a courtesy or status title only, bestowed on boroughs having a population of at least 20,000. A city council has precisely the same powers and functions as a borough council.


Although some older boroughs are smaller, districts may not now be constituted as boroughs unless they have a population of at least 1,500 with a density of at least one person to the acre, concentrated in not more than 9 square miles in which no point shall be more than 6 miles distant from another. Boroughs and cities, of which there are at present 144, are urban units completely independent of the county structure.

Town Districts

Town districts may be either independent, that is, completely independent of county control and, in effect, miniature boroughs so far as the functions and powers of their town councils are concerned, or dependent, in which case they form part of and are subject to a limited degree of control by a county council. As no new dependent town districts may now be constituted this type of administrative unit is gradually disappearing. Independent town districts may not be formed unless they have a population of at least 500 with a density of at least one person to the acre, concentrated in not more than 2 square miles in which no point shall be more than 4 miles distant from another. At the present time there are 24 town districts.

Road Districts

There are three road districts, two in the Sounds County, which is not governed by a county council, and one on Waiheke Island. Their governing bodies are road boards which, as their name implies, are concerned with little more than district roading.