From 1853 to 1876 New Zealand had two levels of government, provincial and central. Each of eventually nine provinces had its own Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, appointed Executive Council and elected Assembly, with a Speaker. Each province had responsibility for local Crown land development, immigration, public works, harbours, education and hospitals, but increasingly leant on central government for funding.
The boundary of Auckland Province extended from North Cape as far south as Lake Taupo. The whole of the North Shore was included in the Auckland Provincial Council’s multi-member Northern Division electorate, echoing the name and boundaries of the central government electorate. The Northern Division electorate boundaries at first stretched from Whangarei southwards to part of the central Auckland isthmus, and then from 1860 just from Warkworth southwards to the Whau Creek, including the North Shore. The two major voting areas on the North Shore at that time were Flagstaff (now Devonport) and Stokes Point (now Northcote). At that time, Birkenhead was still awaiting its sugar works, and Lake Pupuke, Glenfield and the East Coast Bays had few settlers.
Because the Northern Division was a multi-member electorate, it had no less than 28 representatives from 1853 to 1873. Many of those 28 also represented other electorates at different times, but only eight were also successful in national politics, including Thomas Henderson and William Swanson (both of whom have West Auckland suburbs named after them). More often, locally based Auckland Provincial Councillors also served on their local Highway or Road Boards.
Examples include Henry Dacre (a Provincial Council member from 1867 to 1868), who also served as a trustee on the Lake District Highway Board from 1877 to 1878, and Allan O’Neill (a Provincial Council member from 1853 to 1865) who chaired the Lake District Highway Board from 1867 to 1868 and then 1869 to 1870. O’Neill also served on that Board as a trustee from 1873 to 1876. Isaac Rhodes Cooper (a Provincial Council member from 1857 to 1861 and 1865 to 1869) chaired the North Shore Highway Board from 1868 to 1870. Cooper owned property in the Northcote Point and Pupuke Road areas, as well as in Orewa.
The first elected Superintendent (1853-1855), Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Henry Wynyard (1802-1864), was also a serving military officer, and his opponents alleged he was voted into office by both serving and former military men living in the greater Auckland area, the latter including those in the Pensioner Villages of Onehunga, Otahuhu, Panmure and Howick. Lieutenant-Governor for the Province of New Ulster from 1851 to 1853, Wynyard was also Colonial Administrator from 1852 to 1855. He became a Colonel in 1854 and left New Zealand with the 58th Regiment in 1858.
From November 1873, the Northern Division electorate was separated into the single member Waitemata and Takapuna Provincial electorates. There was no corresponding central government electorate for Takapuna, the North Shore being part of the Waitemata electorate from 1870. George McCullagh Reed (1832-1898) was elected without opposition and represented Takapuna on the Provincial Council until its abolition in 1876. He was soon after appointed to the Auckland Provincial Executive Council, and was Provincial Treasurer until part-way through 1874. Born in Ireland, he had come to Auckland from Queensland in 1870 and had started the Evening Star (later The Auckland Star) newspaper. He was soon after joined by Henry Brett in managing that newspaper, but left in 1876 for work in Dunedin. He later also worked for The New Zealand Herald.
From 1876, the Waitemata County Council took over some of the local responsibilities of the Auckland Provincial Council; this happened throughout New Zealand with 63 newly formed counties. Local roads boards continued to exist until separate boroughs were formed. Locally these were: Devonport from 1886, Birkenhead from 1888, Northcote from 1908, Takapuna from 1913 and East Coast Bays from 1953.