Southland District Council consists of a mayor and 12 councillors.
Following a representation review in 2012 Southland District Council is divided into five wards; Mararoa Waimea (three councillors), Stewart Island Rakiura (one councillor), Waiau Aparima (three councillors), Winton Wallacetown (three councillors), Waihopai Toetoes (two councillors).
Council is responsible for representing the district, developing and approving Council policy, deciding on expenditure and funding requirements, monitoring Council performance and employing the chief executive. The chief executive, in turn, employs all other staff.
Council was established in 1989 when New Zealand local government was reorganised.
Various councils, including the Wallace County Council, Southland County Council, Stewart Island County Council and Winton Borough Council, were amalgamated to create the Southland District Council, which inherited all the assets and services, including the roading and bridges network, water and waste services in the urban areas, health and building inspections and planning.
Council now manages about 5000km of roads, 13 urban water supplies, 11 rural water supplies, 17 sewerage schemes, 34 cemeteries, community halls, 69 community housing units, 10 libraries and one mobile library service, 150 reserves and parks, and much much more.
Its role not only encompasses the management and improvement of physical assets such as roads and bridges, but also the Southland communities' social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing.
Council has also become active in speaking out on behalf of Southland and continues to represent the district in Wellington on matters such as health, community services, funding policies, education and employment.
Council has as its vision "To have thriving healthy communities"
To do that, its guiding principle is "People First"
Council's mission is "Working together for a better Southland"
Council's logo represents the hills, mountains and rivers of Southland. It includes our guiding principle of People First and our name gifted to us by Ngāi Tahu - Te Rohe Põtae O Murihiku. This is translated to "an all-encompassing shelter for the people of Southland."