List of cities in New Zealand

List of cities in New Zealand
A map showing many major cities and towns of New Zealand.

After the local government reforms of 1989, the term "city" began to take on two meanings in New Zealand. Before 1989, a borough council with more than 20,000 people could be proclaimed a city. The boundaries of councils tended to follow the edge of the built-up area, so little distinction was made between the urban area and the local government area.

In 1989, the structure of the local governments in New Zealand was significantly reorganized. The new district councils and city councils were nearly always much larger geographically, and they covered both urban land and the surrounding rural land. Many locations that once had had a "city council" are now being governed by a "district council".

The word "city" began to be used in a less formal sense to describe the urban areas of New Zealand independent of local body boundaries. This informal usage is jealously guarded. The district government of the town of Gisborne, for example, adamantly described itself as the first "city" in the world to see the new millennium. However, Gisborne is governed by a "district council", but its status as a city is not generally disputed in New Zealand.[citation needed]


Urban areas by population

The populations given in the table below are provisional New Zealand resident populations, June 2010 estimates,[1] and they refer to the entire urban area, unless otherwise stated.

Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand
Panorama of Dunedin
Rotorua from Mt. Ngongotaha
Whanganui from Durie Hill
Rank (population) Urban area Population Area
1 Auckland &100000000013549000000001,354,900 &100000000000010860000001,086 &100000000000012475999991,247.6
2 Christchurch &10000000000390300000000390,300 &10000000000000608000000608 &10000000000000641899999641.9
3 Wellington &10000000000389700000000389,700 &10000000000000444000000444 &10000000000000877700000877.7 1.
4 Hamilton Urban Area &10000000000203400000000203,400 &10000000000000877000000877 &10000000000000231900000231.9 2.
5 Napier-Hastings Urban Area &10000000000124400000000124,400 &10000000000000375000000375 &10000000000000331699999331.7 3.
6 Tauranga &10000000000120000000000120,000 &10000000000000178000000178 &10000000000000674200000674.2
7 Dunedin &10000000000116600000000116,600 &10000000000000255000000255 &10000000000000457300000457.3
8 Palmerston North &1000000000008160000000081,600 &10000000000000178000000178 &10000000000000458399999458.4
9 Nelson &1000000000005980000000059,800 &10000000000000146000000146 &10000000000000409600000409.6
10 Rotorua &1000000000005590000000055,900 &1000000000000008900000089 &10000000000000628100000628.1
11 New Plymouth &1000000000005220000000052,200 &10000000000000112000000112 &10000000000000466100000466.1
12 Whangarei &1000000000005190000000051,900 &10000000000000133000000133 &10000000000000390199999390.2
13 Invercargill &1000000000004870000000048,700 &10000000000000123000000123 &10000000000000395899999395.9
14 Whanganui (Wanganui) &1000000000003970000000039,700 &10000000000000105000000105 &10000000000000378100000378.1
15 Gisborne &1000000000003420000000034,200 &1000000000000008500000085 &10000000000000402399999402.4


  1. Kapiti Coast (40,000) is the only urban area not listed by the Statistics New Zealand organization. The Kapiti Coast District includes the townships of Paekakariki, Raumati, Paraparaumu; Paraparaumu Beach, and Waikanae; and the village of Pekapeka, and is not considered to be a city by Statistics New Zealand. The Kapiti Coast is considered by most Wellingtonians as being part of the Greater Wellington Area - though not by Statistics New Zealand. Hundreds of people here commute daily to Wellington for work, and the suburban commuter railroad network ends in the Kapiti District. If Kapiti were added to Wellington the total population of the Wellington Urban Area would be approximately 430,000.
  2. The population for the Hamilton urban zone is 171,600, the Cambridge urban zone is 16,400 and the Te Awamutu urban zone is 15,450.
  3. The population figures for the Hastings urban zone is 65,700, and for Napier 58,600.
  4. Blenheim (30,200) is sometimes referred to as a city, especially by locals, although its (former) borough council was never proclaimed a city.
  5. Timaru (27,600) once had a city council, but it is now administered as part of a district council. It is classified as a secondary urban area by Statistics New Zealand.
  6. Pukekohe, a settlement not far south of Auckland, has an estimated population of 25,600.
  7. Taupo in the central North Island and with an estimated population of 22,300 is rarely referred to as a city.
  8. Masterton, the main centre in the Wairarapa, is rarely referred to as a city. It has an estimated population of 20,100.
  9. Tokoroa in the South Waikato district was long expected to become a city when its population continued to grow past 18,000 during the 1980s. However, with the fallback in the forestry industry, Tokoroa's main industry, many jobs were lost and Tokoroa's population declined. It now has 13,400 residents.
  10. Levin, the main centre in the Horowhenua district, with an estimated population of nearly 20,000 is also not considered to be a city.

City councils

The populations given are the Statistics New Zealand estimated resident population (June 2010 estimate).[1]

City Council Population First Proclaimed Ranking (size)
Auckland &100000000014620000000001,462,000 1871 1
Hamilton &10000000000143000000000143,000 1936 4
Tauranga &10000000000114300000000114,300 1963 6
Napier &1000000000005760000000057,600 1950 9
Palmerston North &1000000000008130000000081,300 1930 8
Porirua &1000000000005210000000052,100 1965 11
Upper Hutt &1000000000004110000000041,100 1966 13
Lower Hutt &10000000000102700000000102,700 1941 7
Wellington &10000000000197700000000197,700 1870 3
Nelson &1000000000004550000000045,500 1874 12
Christchurch &10000000000376700000000376,700 1868 2
Dunedin &10000000000124800000000124,800 1865 5
Invercargill &1000000000005240000000052,400 1930 10

Many cities were reorganised into districts by the Local Government Commission in 1989 under the Local Government Act 1974, for example, Timaru. The most recently proclaimed city is Tauranga, which became a city, for the second time, from 1 March 2004. Another former city is Rotorua. Some present cities, such as Christchurch (1862 and 1868) and Invercargill (1930 and 1991), have been declared cities more than once.

Under Section 27 of the Local Government Act 2002, a district may become a city by either a reorganisation scheme with the Local Government Commission, or under Section 27(1) it may apply for a change in status under Schedule 3, Clause 7. The new city must have 'a population of not less than 50,000 persons', be 'predominantly urban' and 'a distinct entity and a major centre of activity within the region' (or regions) that it is encompassed by. Existing cities are grandfathered under Schedule 2, Part 2 of the Act. The only new city council so far under this section is the Tauranga City Council, from 1 March 2004.

Previously, under Section 37L of the Local Government Act 1974, new cities could only be formed from a reorganisation scheme. The same criteria were used. The last city to be constituted under this section was Invercargill, which was re-reorganised into a city in 1991.

In 1991 the Lower Hutt City Council became the Hutt City Council by a special Act of Parliament [1] that which did not change the name [2] of the city of Lower Hutt; the city's coat of arms still refers to the City of Lower Hutt.

Cities during provincialism, 1852 to 1876

During provincialism in New Zealand, from 1852 until abolition in 1876, there was no uniform system of local authorities in New Zealand. There is thus some argument over which of the following cities was the first.

  • Nelson (1858, by Letters Patent)
  • Christchurch (November 1862, revoked June 1868, both by provincial ordinance, and restored October 1868 by Act of Parliament)
  • Otago (later Dunedin) (July 1865)

The Municipal Corporations Act 1876 included the first schedule of cities, with the dates they were constituted. Dunedin was the first city in New Zealand to be described in an Act of Parliament as 'City of...', something now automatic under the Local Government Act 2002.

Cities, 1877 to 1989

Up to October 1989, the Local Government Commission undertook reorganisations of local government. As a result, some cities were reorganised into other cities or changed to districts, and some of these areas are still considered cities by many New Zealanders. This is a list as at circa 1986.

See also



  • Gordon McLauchlan (Editor), Illustrated Encyclopedia of New Zealand, The, Auckland: David Bateman, 1989 (second edition) (ISBN 1-86953-007-1) - confirmation, pre-1989 dates

External links

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