New Zealand’s central government is based in the country’s capital city, Wellington. Currently New Zealand has a National Party-led government with a general election to be held in 2017.

The New Zealand Cabinet is the most senior policy and decision-making body and is led by the Prime Minister and leader of the National Party, John Key. The key Cabinet committee concerned with economic growth and development is the Cabinet Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee.

Key Ministries focused on economic development include; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT); the Ministry of Tourism, and New Zealand Treasury.



New Zealand is divided into 16 regions. The Waikato district sits within the greater Waikato region. The Waikato region includes the areas covered by 11 separate local territorial authorities (also known as Councils) that govern the following areas:

Each district or city has its own set of elected representatives, included an elected Mayor.

In addition, the Waikato Regional Council works across the region, alongside all 11 councils, to help manage the region’s natural and physical resources. All councils work collaboratively together via the Waikato Mayoral Forum.

Four of the councils (Waikato District Council, Waipa District Council, Hamilton City Council and Waikato Regional Council), along with the New Zealand Transport Agency and tangata whenua also collaborate on a sub-regional growth strategy called Future Proof.


Waikato District Council governs the Waikato district, which is part of the greater Waikato region. Waikato District Council is led by Mayor Allan Sanson, who leads 13 councillors representing 10 wards. These 10 wards are: Awaroa ki Tuakau, Eureka, Huntly, Hukanui Waerenga, Newcastle, Ngaruawahia, Onewhero, Tamahere, Raglan, Whangamarino. More information can be found here.

In addition, five community boards and five community committees provide valuable local input on specific issues.

The Council is funded largely by annual rates levied on its ratepayers. The rates fund a wide range of services provided by the council, including services dedicated to economic growth and the development of sustainable communities throughout the district.

At an operational level, the council employs 300 staff led by chief executive, Gavin Ion.


Waikato-Tainui comprises 64,500 tribal members, 68 marae and 33 hapū and has its own governance structure.  The current structure was put in place in 1999 following the tribe’s 1995 land settlement with the New Zealand government.

The Waikato-Tainui iwi traces its roots back to the migration of the Tainui waka (canoe), captained by Hoturoa, that voyaged from Hawaiiki across the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa around 1350AD.

Tribal structure
Tribal members elect three members from their marae to represent them for three years in Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Incorporated – the tribe's parliament, commonly referred to as 'Te Kauhanganui'.

Te Arataura
Te Arataura is the executive board of Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Incorporated. Its membership is comprised of 10 members elected from Te Kauhanganui (the tribe’s parliament) for terms of three years and one Kaahui Ariki representative appointed by the King.

Whakatupuranga 2050
Whakatupuranga Waikato-Tainui 2050 is the blueprint for the cultural, social and economic advancement of Waikato-Tainui people. It is a 50-year development approach to building the capacity of the tribe’s iwi, hapū and marae. 

For more see www.waikatotainui.com


The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document. It takes its name from the place in the Bay of Islands where it was first signed on February 6,1840. This day, known as Waitangi Day, is now a public holiday in New Zealand. The Treaty is an agreement, in Māori and English, that was made between the British Crown and about 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs).

For more see www.nzhistory.net.nz


New Zealand’s judicial system is made up of courts, some of which have more power than others. Courts resolve conflicts between people, or between people and the state. Court judges base their rulings on written law (legislation) and common law (law that developed from previous judges’ decisions).

History of courts in New Zealand

New Zealand’s first courts were established in 1840. The Supreme Court, which is what the High Court was known as until 1980, was founded in 1841. Various lower courts continued until 1980 when they were renamed ‘district courts’ and given wider responsibility.


The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in New Zealand. It is an appeal court, so rules on cases that have been first heard in a lower court. In the Supreme Court usually five judges will hear each case, and the chief justice presides (leads). Other lower courts must follow the Supreme Court’s decisions.


The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is also an appeal court. Three to five judges sit on each case, depending on its importance to the public.


The High Court

The High Court can hear both original cases (cases in court for the first time) and appeals from lower courts.


The District Court and specialist courts

The district courts hear more than 95 per cent of all criminal trials. There are 59 district courts located throughout New Zealand. The Youth Court and the Family Court are both part of the District Court. Other specialist courts include:

  • - the Employment Court
  • - the Environment Court
  • - the Māori Land Court
  • - the Māori Appellate Court
  • - the Coroners Court
  • - military courts.

For more see www.teara.govt.nz and www.justice.govt.nz or review our governance fact sheet. Governance (178kb)


In 2008 Waikato-Tainui and the government of New Zealand signed a Deed of Settlement to settle the tribe's claim to the Waikato River. A further refined version was signed in 2009 when the government changed from a Labour administration to a National one. The premise of the settlement was the Raupatu which dealt a double blow to Waikato-Tainui taking by the lands and the river.

The Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act (the Act) was passed in 2010. The Act provides for the overarching purpose of the settlement which is "to restore and protect the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations." It enables the vision and strategy, jointly developed by the Guardians of the River, to be deemed as part of the Regional Policy Statement of Waikato Regional Council. The members of the Guardians of the River included the five iwi along the length of the river and relevant territorial authorities. Each territorial authority is required to enter into a Joint Management Agreement with Waikato-Tainui. This allows for co-management of the river by Waikato-Tainui and the territorial authority.

Waikato District Council and Waikato-Tainui entered into a Joint Management Agreement (JMA) on March 23 2010. As the real beneficiary of the settlement is the river, the legislation provides financial redress "the clean-up fund" to achieve the restoration of the health and wellbeing of the river. This agreement affrims the commitment between Waikato-Tainui and the Council to:

  • Enter into a new era of co-management over the Waikato River
  • Achieve the overaraching purpose of the settlement to restore and protect the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations, and
  • To provide an enhanced relationship between Waikato-Tainui and the Waikato District Council on areas of common interest

Schedules to the JMA outline the process for engagement to achieve the purpose, principles and objectives of the agreement.

Staff of the Council work closely with staff of the Waikato Raupatu River Trust to implement the JMA.

For more information on the work of the Waikato Raupatu River Trust visit www.wrrt.co.nz

Waikato towns

Waikato district offers a welcoming community to suit everyone and every family. Whether it’s a sleepy rural haven, a laid-back beach resort, or towns rich in history and cultural heritage, we have it all. Our towns are a short commute to New Zealand’s largest city Auckland, and its fourth largest city, Hamilton.

Our Lifestyle

Waikato district is, quite simply, an outstanding place to live. Our natural features, location, rich cultural heritage, excellent schooling and huge lifestyle advantages are a magnet for people seeking a high quality of life.

Our Place in NZ

Waikato district sits within the greater Waikato region located in the upper central area of the North Island of New Zealand. The Waikato is in the heart of the ‘golden triangle’ between New Zealand’s largest city Auckland, its fourth largest city Hamilton and the fifth largest port city of Tauranga. With a superb location, it provides a massive and growing range of lifestyle and business opportunities, all in a stones through of these large centres.


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