Southland District Council is one of 78 territorial, regional and unitary councils in New Zealand and, like all local government, it plays a vital role in the future direction of our region.

As a territorial authority, Council is committed to the needs of both the people living in the District and those who will one day call Southland home.

Council is tasked with representing the District, developing and approving Council policy, deciding on expenditure and funding requirements, monitoring performance and employing the chief executive. The chief executive, in turn, employs all other staff.

Council is responsible for the provision of local infrastructure, including water, sewerage, stormwater, roads, bridges and footpaths. It also manages environmental safety and health, building control, resource management, and looks after open spaces, such as playgrounds, sports fields, reserves and more. It manages libraries and community halls, all for the social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing of Southland.

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, 150 parks and reserves, seven libraries and one mobile library service.

Southland District Council is sometimes confused with Invercargill City Council. In reality, the powers and responsibilities of city and district councils are all the same - the only difference is that city councils serve a population of more than 50,000 in a predominantly urban area.

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 joined to create Southland District Council.

Council cannot achieve its objectives alone and works closely with central government and a range of other organisations, public bodies, businesses and citizens. Council actively speaks 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.

Southland District Council consists of a mayor and 12 councillors who are elected every three years by voters.

It meets regularly and bases its decision-making on the preferences of our communities, the commitments of previous councils, central government requirements and the physical requirements of infrastructure. Active engagement encourages community participation in important decision-making.

  • Activities that can only be decided by full Council include: setting rates and making bylaws
  • borrowing money, or buying or selling land, unless already approved under the long-term plan
  • adopting a long-term plan (LTP), annual plan or annual report
  • adopting policies in response to LTP or by the local governance statement
  • appointing a chief executive.

Council can make other decisions either as a full council, or by delegating some matters to a committee of the council, a community board or a council organisation.

Structure of Council


Following a representation review in 2019, Southland District Council is divided into five wards; Mararoa Waimea (three councillors), Stewart Island/Rakiura (one councillor), Waiau Aparima (three councillors), Oreti(three councillors) and Waihopai Toetoe (two councillors).

Council is required to review ward boundaries every six years to ensure fair and effective representation. As a result, ward boundaries may change to reflect any significant changes in population to achieve a fair ratio of how many elected members represent their respective communities.

Community boards

A vital component of community representation are Southland’s nine community boards – Ardlussa, Northern, Oreti, Waihopai Toetoe, Wallace Takitimu, Oraka Aparima, Fiordland, Tuatapere Te Waewae and Stewart Island/Rakiura.

Elected at the same time as Council, the community boards have either six or seven members and a councillor representative. Each board elects a chairperson.

The role of each board is to represent their community and make decisions on local issues, activities and facilities. They advise Council on community views and carry out delegated council service delivery or regulatory responsibilities in their respective areas.

A significant part of the boards’ function is to partner with the community on initiatives for the benefit of residents. Each board has its own Community Partnership Fund to support local projects and is responsible for approving grants. Epitomising the concept of community- led development, the funds have a positive impact – in the community, for the community.

The community boards are unincorporated bodies, directly funded by Council. They cannot employ staff but are provided with administrative resources and advice by Council.