Regions of New Zealand

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On 2015-11-27, ISO issued an update to the ISO 3166-2 codes for New Zealand. It recognizes the same seventeen divisions that I have listed. According to ISO, they are all regions except that Chatham Islands is a special island authority. The codes for the North and South Island have been withdrawn.

Auckland has become a unitary authority. On 2014-11-03, an update to ISO 3166-2 showed the new status.

Update 4 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes, the successor to FIPS PUB 10-4, was issued on 2011-04-30. It has a new FIPS code for Tasman unitary authority.

Newsletter II-2, an update to the ISO 3166-2 standard, is dated 2010-06-30. It assigns an ISO code to Chatham Islands. It also gives the status of each subdivision (regional council, etc.), as listed below under Primary subdivisions.

The regions are mainly for purposes of environmental management, and their capitals (the location of the main regional council offices) are not hugely significant. The regional council for Manawatu-Wanganui region is called the Horizons Regional Council, and that for Canterbury is called Environment Canterbury, or ECan for short.

FIPS Publication Change Notice No. 10, affecting FIPS PUB 10-4, was issued on 2006-03-23. It assigns new FIPS codes to the current divisions of New Zealand, superseding the county codes formerly in effect.

International standard ISO 3166-2 was published on December 15, 1998. It superseded ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard). For New Zealand, the draft standard showed 14 regions. The final standard shows 16. This corresponds to an administrative change that took place in 1992. Nelson-Marlborough region was divided into several pieces, which were absorbed into neighboring regions or became new regions. The new regions were Nelson, Marlborough, and Tasman; Tasman also annexed part of West Coast region.

Country overview: 

ISO codeNZ
LanguageEnglish (en),Maori
Time zone+12~ (see note)


Note: Chatham Islands are +12:45~ (source [4])

New Zealand was a British colony at the beginning of the century. On 1907-09-26 it became a dominion of the British Empire. Since then it has gained or lost some small island dependencies, but the territory of New Zealand itself has remained unchanged. The Ross Dependency in Antarctica has been administered by New Zealand since 1923-07-30.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: New Zealand
  2. Dutch: Nieuw-Zeeland
  3. Finnish: Uusi-Seelanti
  4. French: Nouvelle-Zélande f
  5. German: Neuseeland n
  6. Icelandic: Nýja-Sjáland
  7. Italian: Nuova Zelanda f
  8. Maori: Aotearoa
  9. Norwegian: New Zealand (Bokmål), Ny-Zealand (Nynorsk)
  10. Portuguese: Nova Zelândia f
  11. Russian: Новая Зеландия
  12. Spanish: Nueva Zelanda f, Nueva Zelandia (Latin American variant)
  13. Swedish: Nya Zeeland
  14. Turkish: Yeni Zelanda (formal)

Origin of name: 

after the province of Zeeland (Sea-land) in the Netherlands. The native name, Aotearoa, is said to mean "land of the long white cloud".

Primary subdivisions: 

New Zealand is divided into eleven regional councils, five "unitary authorities" (combining the functions of a regional council and a territorial authority), and one special territorial authority.

Bay of PlentyrNZ.BPBOPNZE8267,74112,4474,806NWhakatane
Chatham IslandsaNZ.CICITNZ10600963372 Waitangi
Hawke's BayrNZ.HBHKBNZF2151,17914,1645,469NNapier
Manawatu-WanganuirNZ.MWMWTNZF3222,66922,2158,577NPalmerston North
West CoastrNZ.WCWTCNZG332,14823,3369,010SGreymouth
17 divisions4,242,048276,409106,722
  • Typ: r = regional council, u = unitary authority, a = territorial authority
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • Population: 2013-03-05 census
  • Isl: Island containing most of the region (using former codes from ISO 3166-2: N = North,
    S = South)

Postal codes: 

New Zealand uses four-digit postal codes.

Further subdivisions:

See the Districts of New Zealand page.

On the secondary level, New Zealand is divided into fifteen cities, 58 districts, and the Chatham Islands, collectively referred to as territorial authorities. There are some territorial authorities that overlap two regions.

A complete explanation of New Zealand's territorial structures would fill a book. North Island and South Island have always been recognized as a partition, although they don't correspond to any of the usual administrative structures. The divisions shown above represent the present state of an evolutionary process. They began as provinces (prior to 1876), became provincial districts, lost their administrative functions, became statistical areas in 1961, local government regions in ~1982, and regions in 1989. The regions are responsible for certain environmental issues, transportation, and civil defense. The New Zealand Department of Statistics also tracks population in statistical divisions and main urban areas, but some parts of New Zealand are not in any statistical division or main urban area; some main urban areas are within a statistical division, and some are not. Since 1876, the secondary administrative divisions have had various statuses: initially counties and cities, currently districts and cities. On the average, the counties/districts have been much smaller than the provinces/regions. However, especially in the North Island, there are overlaps: not every district is entirely contained in one region. There are other local governments, called special purpose authorities. On the level below the counties, there are 159 community boards (only serving some areas of the country), whose function is simply to advise the district councils. There are also wards, some of which coincide with community boards.

Territorial extent: 

The bulk of each region lies on either the North or South Island, as shown in the table above.

  1. Auckland includes most of the islands in Hauraki Gulf, such as Great Barrier, Waiheke, Little Barrier, Rangitoto, Motutapu, Ponui, and Kawau.
  2. Bay of Plenty includes Motiti, White, and Whale Islands.
  3. Chatham Islands includes Chatham Island (Rekohua), Pitt Island (Rangiauria), and some smaller islets.
  4. Marlborough includes many small islands in the Cook Strait, such as D'Urville and Arapawa Islands.
  5. Northland includes the Hen and Chickens Group, Poor Knights Islands, and some other coastal islets.
  6. Southland includes Stewart, Ruapuke, Resolution, Codfish, Solander, and many smaller islands.
  7. Tasman includes Rabbit and Adele Islands.
  8. Waikato includes the Mercury Islands and Cuvier Island.
  9. Wellington includes Kapiti and Mana Islands.

New Zealand includes some remote island groups which are not part of any region. The Kermadec Islands are grouped with North Island for statistical purposes. The Antipodes Islands, Campbell Island, the Auckland Islands, Three Kings, Snares, and Bounty Islands are grouped with South Island. For additional information, see source [3].

New Zealand administers Tokelau as a territory overseas. It maintains a claim to Ross Dependency in Antarctica. It also has relationships of free association with its former territories of Cook Islands and Niue. On this website, following the ISO standard, these all have separate listings (see Antarctica, Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau). Samoa is a former trust territory.

The UN LOCODE page  for New Zealand lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Auckland: named by Captain William Hobson in gratitude to Lord Auckland, former First Lord of the Admiralty
  2. Bay of Plenty: named by Captain Cook to mark the Maori inhabitants' successful cultivation of the adjoining land
  3. Canterbury: named for Canterbury Cathedral by colonists sponsored in part by the Archbishop of Canterbury
  4. Chatham Islands: discovered by Lieutenant W. R. Broughton, commanding the vessel Chatham
  5. Hawke's Bay: named by Captain Cook in honor of Edward Hawke, First Lord of the Admiralty
  6. Marlborough: after John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), British commander at Blenheim (whence the name of the capital of this region)
  7. Nelson: after Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), British commander at Trafalgar
  8. Taranaki: the Maori name for Mount Egmont
  9. Tasman: after the Tasman Sea, the Tasman Bay, and Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman
  10. Waikato: Maori wai: water, kato: strong
  11. Wanganui: from Maori wanga: harbor, nui: big
  12. Wellington: after Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), British commander at Waterloo

Change history: 

  1. 1846: Sir George Grey, the British governor, established two provinces: New Ulster and New Munster. They were separated by the 40th parallel South. Consequently, New Munster contained the entire South Island and part of the North Island.
  2. 1853: The New Zealand Constitution Act took effect, dividing New Zealand into six provinces (with capitals): Auckland (Auckland), Canterbury (Christchurch), Nelson (Nelson), New Plymouth (New Plymouth), Otago (Dunedin), and Wellington (Wellington). Auckland, New Plymouth, and part of Wellington replaced New Ulster.
  3. 1858-11-01: Hawke's Bay province (capital Napier) split from Wellington.
  4. 1859-01-01: Name of New Plymouth province, but not its capital, changed to Taranaki.
  5. 1859-11-01: Marlborough province (capital Picton) split from Nelson.
  6. 1861-04-01: Southland province (capital Invercargill) split from Otago.
  7. 1863: Stewart Island annexed to Southland province.
  8. 1865: Capital of New Zealand moved from Auckland to Wellington.
  9. 1865-07: Capital of Marlborough province moved from Picton to Blenheim.
  10. 1870-10-06: Southland province merged with Otago again.
  11. 1873-12-01: Westland province (capital Hokitika) split from Canterbury (it had been a county of Canterbury province since 1868-01-01).
  12. 1876: Provinces abolished in favor of the central government.
  13. 1911: New Zealand consisted of nine provincial districts, as shown here. Otago was further subdivided into Otago portion and Southland portion. Source [5] calls them provinces in 1960. Source [5] also shows twelve "land districts" whose boundaries lie disconcertingly close to the province boundaries.
Hawke's Bay48,54611,422Napier
Taranaki51,5698,568New Plymouth
9 regions1,008,206268,471
  • Population: 1911 census
  1. 1961: Status of provincial districts changed to statistical areas. Auckland split into Central Auckland, East Coast, Northland, and South Auckland-Bay of Plenty. Parts of Nelson transferred to Canterbury and Westland.
  2. 1974: New Zealand reorganized from 13 statistical areas into 22 local government regions, under the Local Government Act of 1974. The local government regions are shown in this table.
Bay of Plenty172,4809,126NTauranga
Clutha-Central Otago45,40228,982SBalclutha
Coastal-North Otago138,16410,590SDunedin
East Cape53,29511,461NGisborne
Hawke's Bay137,84012,396NNapier, Hastings
Manawatu113,2386,669NPalmerston North
Nelson Bays65,93410,197SNelson
Taranaki103,7987,876NNew Plymouth
Thames Valley54,3434,666NThames-Coromandel
West Coast34,17822,893SGreymouth
22 regions3,169,942265,018
  • Population: 1981-03-24 census
  • Isl: (N)orth or (S)outh Island
  1. 1989-11-01: New Zealand reorganized from 22 local government regions into 14 regional councils. By comparison with the older statistical areas, Nelson was split, its southern part merging with Westland, its northern part with Marlborough to form Nelson-Marlborough; Manawatu-Wanganui split from Wellington; South Auckland-Bay of Plenty split into Bay of Plenty and Waikato; name of Central Auckland changed to Auckland; name of East Coast changed to Gisborne; and almost all borders were adjusted to conform to major watersheds, since the new regions had environmental responsibilities.
  2. 1992: Marlborough district, Nelson city, and Tasman district became regions. At the same time, Nelson-Marlborough region (old ISO code NSB) was abolished; its orphaned areas in Hurunui and Kaikoura districts were transferred to Canterbury region; and West Coast region lost its part of Tasman district.
  3. 2010-11-01: Status of Auckland changed from region to unitary authority. At the same time, there was a minor adjustment to its southern boundary.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Gisborne: East Coast (obsolete)
  2. Hawke's Bay: Hawkes Bay (variant)
  3. Horowhenua: Horohenua (variant)

Population history:

Bay of Plenty203,982224,364239,415257,379267,741
Chatham Islands741747726609600
Hawke's Bay138,342142,791142,950147,783151,179
West Coast31,56332,51130,30331,32632,148


  1. [1] "New Zealand Historical Atlas", Malcolm McKinney et al., eds. David Bateman, Auckland, 1997. This is the source for Change history information from 1846 to 1876.
  2. [2] 2001 census data are from a page on the Statistics New Zealand website titled 2001 Census final population counts (, dead link, retrieved 2005-02-03).
  3. [3] Definition of the North Island and South Island  (PDF) on the University of Canterbury website (retrieved 2007-01-15).
  4. [4] New Zealand Time Act  (retrieved 2005-02-03).
  5. [5] "A Descriptive Atlas of New Zealand", A.H. McLintock. R.E. Owen, Wellington, 1960.
  6. [6] "New Zealand Official 1992 Year Book". Department of Statistics, Auckland, 1992.
  7. [7] "New Zealand: A Handbook of Historical Statistics", G.T. Bloomfield. G.K. Hall & Co., Boston, 1984.
  8. [8] 2013 Census population and dwelling tables , Table 2: Census usually resident population count and change. Statistics New Zealand (retrieved 2007-01-15). Has 2006 and 2013 census data.
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