Story: Auckland region

Page 15. Government, education and health

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Local government

Auckland long endured the most fragmented local government in New Zealand. Both the Auckland City Council and Auckland Harbour Board were formed in 1871. But after the abolition of Auckland Provincial Council in 1876 the urban area developed a welter of small road districts, boroughs, town councils, and ad hoc boards. Parliament’s attempts to amalgamate Auckland’s local bodies were foiled by parochialism, delaying major projects like the harbour bridge.

Reform began after the establishment of New Zealand’s first regional council, the Auckland Regional Authority (ARA) in 1963. The ARA absorbed many of Auckland’s ad hoc boards, working alongside its 32 local councils and co-ordinating services such as public transport.

Much ado about nothing

In 1956 Auckland geographer Kenneth Cumberland described local government as ‘a babel of disputing tongues … a comic opera of overlapping and ineffectual agencies we miscall “authorities”’. 1


More radical change occurred in 1989. The ARA’s buses and its control of the power supply were privatised. Auckland’s local government was divided into eight authorities. These comprised:

  • the Auckland Regional Council (replacing the ARA)
  • four cities – North Shore, Waitākere, Auckland, Manukau
  • three districts – Rodney, Papakura, Franklin.

The Auckland Regional Council’s main focus was on parks, the environment, and growth.

In 2010 a single Auckland council replaced the eight previous councils. Aucklanders were divided on whether the gains from integration would outweigh the loss from the greater remoteness of the city council from its citizens.

Electorates and central government

There is an old wisecrack that ‘there are three parties in Parliament – National, Labour, and Auckland’. Most of Auckland’s influence on central government derives from its substantial voting power. There are 24 general electorates (half of the New Zealand total) as well as three Māori electorates.

The northward shift in New Zealand’s population in the 20th century is reflected in the increasing number of prime ministers to come from the Auckland region, from William Massey to Michael Joseph Savage, Robert Muldoon, David Lange, Helen Clark and John Key.


Primary and secondary

In 2015 the Auckland region had 558 primary and secondary schools. Auckland Grammar School (for boys) was founded in 1867 and set the style for secondary education before the Second World War. Many private church schools were also established around 1900. They drew pupils from across, and beyond, the region. Post-1945 suburban growth led to a surge of new co-educational secondary schools in the city, and district high schools in rural areas.


The Auckland Training College (for teachers) was founded in 1881, followed two years later by Auckland University College. In 2004 the college amalgamated with the university. The Auckland University of Technology began in 1895 as the Auckland Technical School, and was renamed Seddon Memorial Technical College in 1913. Other tertiary institutes include Massey University at Albany, the Unitec Institute of Technology, and the Manukau Institute of Technology.


In 1840 Auckland’s first hospital was a tent set up by merchant and philanthropist John Logan Campbell, to treat two Māori injured in a gunpowder explosion. The first permanent hospital opened in Grafton Gully in 1847.

Today the hospitals of the Auckland region are organised under three district health boards: Auckland, Waitematā and Counties Manukau. In 2003, Auckland, Green Lane, National Women’s, and Starship Children’s hospital were integrated into the major Auckland City Hospital in Grafton.

  1. Quoted in J. Steel, ‘The role of local government in expanding Auckland.’ In Auckland in ferment, edited by J. S. Whitelaw. Auckland: New Zealand Geographical Society, 1967, p. 118. › Back
How to cite this page:

Margaret McClure, 'Auckland region - Government, education and health', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 October 2019)

Story by Margaret McClure, published 6 Dec 2007, updated 5 Aug 2016