A guide to local government in NZ

A useful guide to how local government works in New Zealand (that is, territorial authorities such as councils). Aimed at journalists but readable for anyone interested. Created by Local Government NZ.

Download (PDF, 776KB)

LGNZ publishes the guide under the following copyright policy: “This site provides users with easy access to publicly held information. You may copy, print or download any government material on this site. Any use of scripts or code requires permission from the administrator.”




1869 map of New Zealand’s Māori iwi & confiscated land

1869 map of iwi boundaries and confiscated land.
[Click to enlarge] “Sketch map of the North Island of New Zealand shewing native tribal boundaries, topographical features, confiscated lands, military and police stations, etc. 1869.” – Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 471.
This 1869 map of New Zealand’s North Island shows Māori iwi (tribal) boundaries, confiscated land, location of armed police and military bases, and where gold was found.

It’s fascinating in many ways, not least because it shows the staggering amount of land confiscated in the Waikato – more than 1.2 million acres. The confiscations were made under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863.

From a Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa entry on Māori land rights:

The Crown created various laws in the 1860s to allow it to take land. The New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 allowed it to confiscate the land of North Island iwi deemed to have rebelled against the Crown. The Public Works Act 1864 let it take land for roads, railways, and other public works.

The Native Land Court, established in 1865 (and renamed the Māori Land Court in 1954), encouraged Māori to sell land to private buyers. But the Crown remained the biggest purchaser. It on-sold most of its Māori land, often for a profit.

By 1939, almost 100 years after the Treaty was signed, Māori retained just 1 percent of the South Island and 9 percent of the North Island. Land losses continued as the 20th century progressed, again supported by legislation.

You might also be interested in:

Map of New Zealand’s Māori Iwi – evolvingnewsroom
The New Zealand Wars – Te Ara
1863 land confiscation law – nzhistory.net
Excerpts from James Belich’s TV series The New Zealand Wars – NZ On Screen
Books about the New Zealand Wars – Te Ara
Timeline of the New Zealand Wars – newzealandwars.co.nz
How to Add Macrons to Māori Words – evolvingnewsroom


There are 19 registered political parties in NZ, 15 are contesting election 2014

Parliament Building and Beehive

Updated February 2015: The Electoral Commission determined on 18 December 2014 to cancel the registration of the Internet Party and MANA Movement (Internet MANA) party and its logo at the party’s request.

1. There are 19 registered political parties in New Zealand (as at Tuesday August 26, 2014)

Yep, 19 (Mana and Internet are in there twice – once for each individual party and once for combined Internet Mana Party). The full Register of Political Parties is on elections.org.nz. In no particular order (and with links to policies pages), they are:

Maori, National, Green, Labour, NZ First, Act, Internet Mana, Internet, Mana Movement, Alliance, Conservative, United Future, Democrats for Social Credit, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis, Focus NZ, NZ Independent Coalition, The Civilian, Ban1080, 1Law4All.

15 of these parties are contesting the election this year (September 20, 2014). They are:

  1. ACT New Zealand
  2. Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
  3. Ban1080
  4. Conservative
  5. Democrats for Social Credit
  6. Focus New Zealand
  7. Green Party
  8. Internet MANA
  9. Labour Party
  10. Māori Party
  11. National Party
  12. New Zealand First Party
  13. NZ Independent Coalition
  14. The Civilian Party
  15. United Future

Electoral Commission releases party and candidate lists for 2014 election (August 27, 2014)

♣ What’s involved in registering a political party

2. The election is on Saturday September 20, 2014; polling booths will be open from 9am to 7pm

Don’t forget! ♣ Add it to iCal  ♣ View it on a calendar and grab link to Google Calendar

You can see who’s standing in your electorate and where your nearest polling stations are on elections.org.nz.

3. You can enrol to vote any time between now and September 19 (September 18 if you want to use Telephone Dictation Voting)

If you haven’t enrolled to vote yet, or can’t remember, you can check/enrol fairly painlessly on elections.org.nz: https://enrol.elections.org.nz/app/enrol/#/

[youtube http://youtu.be/2A11hUyyk_k]

Vote by telephone dictation

If you are blind, partially blind or have another physical disability that prevents you from marking your ballot paper without assistance, you are eligible to vote by telephone dictation. You can register by calling 0800 028 028.

When you call, you will be asked to choose a secret question and answer that only you know. You will then be given a personal registration number. Your registration number and secret question are used to confirm that you’re already registered when you call back to vote.  It means you do not have to give your name to the electoral official.

♣ More information on telephone dictation voting

This video explains how telephone dictation voting is designed to let people who are blind or partially blind vote in private (ie without having to ask a friend to mark their ballot paper for them). Key points start kicking in at 2:50 but the whole video is worth a watch.

[youtube http://youtu.be/XIIjkDrjH9Y]

Be on the unpublished electoral roll

If you don’t want your personal address published on the electoral roll, you can request to go on the unpublished roll.

You will need to give your full name, address, date of birth, contact telephone number and produce evidence of your personal circumstances, such as:

  • a copy of a protection order that is in force under the Domestic Violence Act 1995, or
  • a copy of a restraining order that is in force under the Harassment Act 1997, or
  • a statutory declaration from a constable to the effect that he or she believes that your personal safety, or that of your families, could be prejudiced by the publication of your name and details, or a letter from either a Barrister or Solicitor, your employer, a Justice of the Peace, or the like, supporting your application on the grounds that your personal safety, or that of your families, could be prejudiced by the publication of your name and details.

Everything you need to know about the unpublished roll (+ application form)

4. Timeline of key election dates published by elections.org.nz

Monday 25 August, Noon Bulk Nominations Deadline for registered political parties to bulk nominate their electorate candidates to the Electoral Commission.
Tuesday 26 August, Noon Nominations close Deadline for political parties to submit list candidates to the Electoral Commission.Deadline for individual nominations of electorate candidates to Returning Officers.
Wednesday 3 September Advance and Overseas Voting starts
Friday 19 September Advance Voting ends Last day to enrol for the election.
Friday 19 September Midnight Regulated period ends All election advertising must end and election signs must be taken down
Saturday 20 September Election Day Polling places open from 9.00am to 7.00pm. Election Night Preliminary results released progressively from 7.00pm on www.electionresults.govt.nz.
Saturday 4 October Official results for general election declared (including special declaration votes)

5. What happens if disaster interrupts voting on election day

From the: Electoral Commission Plans for Managing Adjournment of Polling in an Emergency

3. Under the Electoral Act 1993 (“the Act”) where polling is affected by an emergency of any kind, the range of options is:

a)   If the area affected is local, the Commission can revoke and amend particular polling places and continue with the conduct of the general election in the rest of the affected electorate and nationwide;

b)   If the event has wider effect, the Commission can adjourn polling in particular polling places, continue with the conduct of the general election elsewhere in the country and either:

(i) publish the preliminary results in the usual way despite voters in the adjourned poll knowing the preliminary results in the general election when they vote; or

(ii) not publish the preliminary results in the general election until the adjourned poll can occur.

4. Under MMP, if polling has to be adjourned in even a single polling place, the election of all members of Parliament and, therefore, the formation of Government is delayed for the period of the adjournment. For this reason, wherever possible the Commission will revoke and amend polling places and make alternative arrangements for voters rather than adjourning polling.


I suck at local elections

I suck at local elections. They creep up on me. One minute I’m ‘so going to do some research on candidates and be an informed voter this year’ and the next there are thickets of hoardings around town, an unopened orange envelope on my kitchen counter, and only a few days left to vote.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that voting in local body elections is kinda complicated.

You can’t just rock up and wing it on the day like you can with a general election where, when all’s said and done, all you have to do is tick two boxes – one for a party, one for a candidate.

In a local election you have to do homework. Because not only do you tick a box for mayor, there are also boxes for councillors, community board members, regional councillors and sometimes licensing trusts and other organisations. Then you’re asked to rank a dozen or so folk running for district health board.

Which would be fine, except I don’t know who any of them are. They are not people I come across regularly on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or mailing lists or even in the news stories I read. I’m relatively new to the area and I’ve never met any of them in person.

There are no burning issues on the homefront (our road’s in reasonable nick, the rubbish gets picked up each week and we recently got a free tree trim to keep our hedge clear of the power lines) to push me one way or another.

So with a few days to go I’m studying the pamphlet that came in the orange envelope, which turns out to have the same two- or three-paragraph blurb about each candidate as the vote.co.nz website. The website, which I think is great, lets you ask questions of candidates, but few of us have and even fewer have answered them. I googled a bit too, and had a quick scan of news sites.

Not a lot to go on, really.

Nonetheless, working on the assumption that voting on light research is better than not voting at all, I tick boxes, rank candidates, and make the mailing deadline by the skin of my teeth.

Sum total of my contribution to local democracy: a few hours.

But as it turns out, that’s a few hours more than a lot of other people.

Voter turnout was really low this year: only about 40% of those eligible voted. That compares to a previous low of 44% in 2007, and to general elections where the turnout is much higher – 73% voted in the 2011 general election.



The low turnout surprised Local Government NZ president and Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, according to NZ Herald. Yule said “it was time to look at all the options, although he did not support compulsory voting. He believed a shorter voting period and the use of ballot boxes and online voting rather than postal voting would help”.

Commentator David Farrar noted there was a general downward trend in voter participation worldwide and said he supports an online voting trial: “I think each year it’s going to get much worse with postal voting because the postal system is becoming less relevant.” Commentator Bryce Edwards told Stuff he thought it had been a “business as usual election” with “really not much on the line and very little to inspire everyone”.

The Government is working on a trial of online voting in 2016 and Local Government Minister Chris Tremain has said he will “ask the working group to consider whether it could be trialled earlier so it could be offered across the country”.

I’m all for online voting, assuming it can work securely, and I’m quite keen on the ballot box too – there’s something about the event of it that creates more of a focal point.

But while either development may make me more efficient at voting, neither will make me more informed.

I’ve still got to find a way to get to know the 30+ people whose names will appear on my ballot paper in 2016.

Better still, those 30+ people might want to find a way to get to know me – along with a bunch of other New Zealanders who currently feel out of the loop. Surveys undertaken by Local Government NZ found that lack of information was one of the main reasons for not voting:

• not enough information about the candidates – 31 per cent
• not interested – 14 per cent (One strain of thought is that since we pay way less tax to local authorities than we do to the national government, we’re less worried about what they’re up to)
• too busy – 12 per cent
• forgot/left it too late – 24 per cent

Will I do better next time? Who knows. But I might try these things:

  1. Follow councils and councillors on Facebook and Twitter and Google Alerts so I’m drip-fed information through the year. Some of it will sink in
  2. Attend a council meeting or two or watch the webcam to get a feel for how these folks work together
  3. Try to meet some councillors in person or at least see them in the flesh somewhere to get a sense of them as people
  4. Read the pre-election report ahead of the next election
  5. Ask/follow questions on vote.co.nz

Can councillors help me out? Yes, I think so. By doing these things:

  1. Follow me back on Facebook and Twitter and wherever else
  2. Share what you’re reading. You must read some interesting stuff – about the environment, urban planning, infrastructure, managing people or workflows or whatever. Share it. You could be a useful source of information to me
  3. Routinely post the nuts and bolts – remind me when the next meeting is, post a link to the agenda, the minutes, your schedule for the week – so I can slowly but surely learn the week-to-week workings of local government
  4. Go to events you wouldn’t normally go to. Maybe I’ll run into you one day
  5. Write more about what you believe in next time you’re standing, and answer the questions on vote.co.nz









Map of NZ’s regional, district and city councils

Maps showing the boundaries of New Zealand’s local authorities (regional, district and city councils), courtesy of the Local Government New Zealand site.

We have 78 local authorities (with around 1600 elected members: mayors, regional council chairs, councillors, local boards and community boards).

  • 11 regional councils;
  • 61 territorial authorities – 11 are city councils and 50 are district councils; and
  • Six unitary councils – which are territorial authorities with regional council responsibilities.

The LGNZ site has a wealth of information about local authorities and how they work. http://www.lgnz.co.nz/.

North Island Council Boundaries Map

South Island Council Boundaries Map




My first Google+ embed (and the US government shutdown) (2013)

Testing out Google+  embeds. Below is one from the White House’s Google Plus account on day one of the US government shutdown.


Who Goes to Work? Who Stays Home?
With the government shutting down after Congress failed to resolve a budget impasse, some federal employees will continue reporting to their departments and agencies, while others will be furloughed. | NY Times (graphic)

Shutdown of US government websites appears bafflingly arbitrary
Of 56 .gov websites that Ars checked, only 10 are going dark entirely. | Ars Technica

So far, the most interesting government #shutdown notice I’ve seen online was …on GitHub. You?
https://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/issues/160 | Alexander Howard


Read and compare the world’s Constitutions

Constituteproject.org homepage

Constituteproject.org homepage

From the Comparative Constitutions Project comes constituteproject.org, a website for searching and saving the constitutions of various countries.

Constitute allows you to interact with the world’s constitutions in a few different ways.

  • Quickly find relevant passages. The Comparative Constitutions Project has tagged passages of each constitution with a topic — e.g., “right to privacy” or “equality regardless of gender” — so you can quickly find relevant excerpts on a particular subject, no matter how they are worded. You can browse the 300+ topics in the expandable drawer on the left of the page, or see suggested topics while typing in the search bar (which also lets you perform free-text queries).
  • Filter searches. Want to view results for a specific region or time period? You can limit your search by country or by date using the buttons under the search bar.
  • Save for further analysis. To download or print excerpts from multiple constitutions, click the “pin” button next to each expanded passage you want to save. You can then view and download your pinned excerpts in the drawer on the right.

The content on constituteproject.org is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Five things I love about Statistics New Zealand

What’s not to love about Statistics New Zealand? Here are a few things they do that I like:

1.  Publish under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand copyright license (so we are free to use and share content as long as we say where it came from). This is great: a publicly funded organisation which collects information about New Zealanders is sharing that information freely with New Zealanders.

2. Offer emails that let you know when statistics are going to be released and the key points of each release when it happens. Sign up for these here.

3. Often win Writemark Plain English awards — which means they make a real effort to write in an accessible way.

4. Have a whole lot of historical data online:

19th-century statistical publications Nineteenth-century statistical publications held in Statistics NZ library
Census: 1871–1916 Census of Population and Dwellings reports and results from 1871 to 1916
Yearbook collection: 1893–2010 The New Zealand Official Yearbook from 1893 to 2010

5. Do some nice infographics. The latest (issued this week) is an infographic celebrating 120 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand (on September 19, 2013) created in partnership with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. It points out, among other things, that the average number of children a woman had in 1893 was 5, in 1953 it was 4, and in 2013 it’s 2.

The graphic also lists notable firsts for women holding Government positions. Most recently, congratulations are in order for Liz MacPherson who has this year become New Zealand’s first woman Government Statistician.






The Register of Pecuniary Interests (what our MPs are invested in) (2013)

I was adding the Register of Pecuniary Interests of New Zealand MPs to my Civic NZ page (where I’m slowly getting my head around what public information is available about Parliamentary business and the timing and format of release) and thought I’d share it here too.

The register lists the financial assets (such as houses, farms and superannuation schemes) and debts (such as mortgages and loans) of our Members of Parliament. The latest was published in January 2013.

It feels slightly prurient (albeit fascinating) reading the Register but it’s a necessary tool that allows we, the people, to satisfy ourselves whether our representatives could have any conflicts of interest or financial bias.


Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament: Summary of annual returns as at 31 January 2013



Review of regulation that ensures free local phone calls for all New Zealanders (2013)

There’s a review under way into the Telecommunications Service Obligations (TSO), a regulation that requires Telecom to ensure every household in New Zealand has access to free local phone calls, 111 calls, and an affordable, basic internet/fax connection. To be more precise the TSO ensures:

• Continued availability of a connection that can provide voice calls, dial-up internet and dialup faxes
• A free local-calling option
• Monthly line rental charges that do not increase by more than the Consumer Price Index
(CPI),2 and that are no higher for rural areas than for urban areas
• Free 111 calls
• A listing in the White Pages telephone book.

The regulation came about after Telecom was privatised: to make sure nobody missed out on basic phone services in this new market environment. But that was back when less than half of New Zealanders had internet connections and none of us had smartphones. Now more than 80% of New Zealanders have internet (mostly broadband), there’s a proliferation of mobile phones, and networks are getting faster.

The review aims to determine whether the TSO is still relevant and whether it should be altered and, if so, how much. There’s a summary discussion document, embedded below, and a more detailed review discussion document.

The deadline for submissions is August 20. + Google Calendar | + PingMe an email reminder 5 days before the deadline.


Summary Discussion Document on TSO Review