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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.



Borough and City Status

It is customary in New Zealand to define all boroughs and cities as urban, and all counties as rural. To reach borough status the population of a defined area must reach 1,000. A city is defined as a borough with a population of at least 20,000. The boroughs and cities elect their own governing bodies: the difference between them is simply one of status as both operate under the authority of the Municipal Corporations Act. The rural areas are under the control of the county councils and include many small towns not of borough status. When a particular urban area grows in importance several boroughs, originally independent settlements, merge to create a city; but such amalgamations are voluntary and in some cases the ratepayers reject the proposal, particularly when a city has been created and wishes to incorporate adjoining boroughs. A most interesting example of this situation is the borough of Newmarket, an important business area in Auckland; it is 182 acres in area, containing less than 2,000 residents, and is entirely surrounded by the city administration, separated in terms of local government but included within a single economic unit.

It follows that most of the larger urban areas contain a number of boroughs as well as the city administration. In addition there are certain urban districts or suburbs located in adjacent counties which logically belong to the city. Hence, for statistical purposes, cities are called “urban areas” and their population is determined in the manner described. The boundaries so established are rarely constant, although they may be held for a time for statistical comparison, but in fact they expand as the towns or cities grow by absorbing adjacent areas and their population. This makes a comparative study of growth in terms of population both complex and difficult except as a guide for general trends of development. The pattern thus created is a series of small settlements in country areas which might be termed “urban” but are in fact simply points of supply for the neighbouring rural districts. A large number of towns of borough status and 14 “urban areas” or cities are located at strategic points for external and internal trade.

The cities are not large by world standards. There are four major ones, Auckland and Wellington (including the Hutt) in the North Island; Christchurch and Dunedin in the South Island. Auckland is the largest and its population is less than half a million: the other three are still below a quarter of a million and no smaller city has yet reached 50,000, the usually accepted number for designation as a metropolis, although both Hamilton and Palmerston North have nearly reached that figure.

The majority of the towns of borough status have less than 10,000 people, but size is relative to total population and the functions the urban areas perform. This purpose, as has already been shown, was in the past and to a great extent is still, the servicing of rural enterprise. The impact of industrial activity caused by the constantly increasing population of the country has so far only seriously affected the growth of the larger urban areas which, due to their location, are most suited for industrial expansion. In these areas, population increase will be rapid thus altering completely the urban pattern.