The local government reforms of this period were made in close association with the reforms to environmental legislation, which ultimately led to the Resource Management Act 1991. The local government reforms used the principles of clear accountability and separation of roles, and culminated in the passing of the Local Government Act 1987. The Act reduced the number of local and regional units of government from more than 625 to 94 (Buhrs and Bartlett, 1993). The original units had included authorities, united councils, counties, municipalities, districts and special purpose boards, such as harbour boards, drainage boards and catchment boards.
The most important innovation under the new arrangements was the creation of 13 regional councils, whose geographical boundaries were based on natural river catchments. In 1996, there were 12 regional councils (the Nelson-Marlborough Regional Council was abolished in 1992 and its responsibilities transferred to three unitary authorities), 74 territorial authorities (including four unitary authorities), and six special purpose authorities (Statistics New Zealand, 1996) (see Figures 4.1 and 4.2). There were also 154 community boards primarily acting as community advocates for consultations with territorial authorities.
Boundaries for the 12 regional and 55 district council boundaries, locations of unitary authorities (Gisborne, Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough), and city councils (Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Hutt, Invercargill, Manukau, Napier, North Shore, Palmerston North, Porirua, Upper Hutt, Waitakere, Wellington).