Skip to main content
Auckland CouncilVote Auckland

Te rerekētanga o te kāwanatanga ā-rohe i te kāwanatanga ā-motu

The difference between local and central government

In Aotearoa, we have two tiers of government: central government makes decisions affecting New Zealand as a whole, while local government looks after the interests and needs of specific communities of our region, cities and district areas.

Central government

Central government is made up of members of parliament who are elected from across the whole country to make decisions for all New Zealanders.

Local government

In Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland local government is made up of the mayor, councillors and local board members who are elected to look after the specific needs of our region and local communities.

Our local government organisation is Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland Council.

Working together to get the job done

While central government and local government have two separate jobs to do, they often work together to get things done.

Let's put it this way

You could think of the central government as your school principal, who looks after everything across the whole school and local government as your class teacher, who looks after everything that happens in the classroom, day to day.

Or you could think of central government as the directors of a large company. They look at the bigger picture and strategies and make sure that all of the departments are working together.

Local government is like a department within a large company. They look after and run a specific area of the business to make sure everything runs smoothly on a daily basis. Both the directors and separate departments have their own jobs to do, but they both rely on each other for direction and support to get those jobs done.

Who does what

Two nested circles: The larger has 'Central Government' in black text, while the smaller has 'Local Government' in white text.

Central government (country-wide)

  • Makes laws for all of New Zealand.
  • Runs the big things like housing, welfare, education, health, energy, national road and rail systems, defence, foreign policy, and public finances.
  • Keeps an eye on employment, import and export, and workplace safety.
  • Deals with taxes for the whole country.

Local government (council area)

  • Provides local services like water, rubbish collection, parks, animal management, roads, public transport and libraries.
  • Makes decisions about building consents.
  • Makes bylaws (special laws for certain areas) within its boundaries.
  • Collects rates from Aucklanders to keep the city going.

Watch a video on what the council does

Watch this video in New Zealand Sign Language

You may find this interesting

Auckland Council is the biggest council in Oceania.
Oceania includes:
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Melanesia
  • Micronesia
  • Polynesia.

Auckland Council hasn’t always been as big as it is today.

In 2010, the Auckland Council was formed by an Act of Parliament, which was decided by central government.
It was formed by bringing together all of the eight previous councils in the Auckland region into one, which some people called the ‘Supercity’!

A logo showing the letter 'A' in the style of Superman. "Supercity" is written in thick black capital letters.

Read next topic - What makes our structure unique.


​Sign up for learning resources

Register to receive a link to our civics education resources for schools and community groups.

You will receive separate educational resources for four lessons based on the information on this site.

Each lesson takes a closer look at the topic through four fun activities with clear learning objectives that are easily adaptable for any classroom or interest group.

Sign up now

 Explore more of Auckland Council and you



Civic participation participationFind out how you can become actively involved in the democratic process by voting, attending and speaking at public meetings, making submissions on public consultations, and holding your elected representatives to account.aspxElections
Co-governance and our relationship with Māori and our relationship with MāoriLearn about the Independent Māori Statutory Board, committees of the Governing Body, the Tāmaki Makaurau Mana Whenua Forum and more.aspxElections
Elections and representation and representationFind out the difference between local and general elections, how the elections process works, why you should vote and how representation works.aspxElections

 Related topics



About wards and local boards wards and local boardsLearn about wards and local boards, how wards are organised, what local boards do, and view a full list of Auckland's wards and local boards.aspxElections
Understanding our key plans our key plansWe've pulled together a selection of our key plans, policies and projects to help you gain an understanding of what we have planned over the next three years.aspxElections