Early in 1953, the Ministry of Works and Development on behalf of the Government, discussed with the Whakatane County Council the possibility of it taking over control of the new town to be developed at Onepu. The Council had strong reservations about the proposal. The Council was apprehensive that the initial stages of development would put excessive demands on its resources and was concerned that once the new town was established it would seek to be independent. The Council offered full co-operation in providing for the town and its needs, but declined the offer of a role in its administration.
Government referred the matter to the Local Government Commission to pursue the necessary enquiries amongst the Whakatane County Council, Ministry of Works, Tasman Pulp & Paper Ltd, the Department of Lands and Survey and the Department of Internal Affairs. It was agreed that a Town Commissioner be appointed to exercise Local Government Control and some seven recommendations of the Commission were embodied in legislation later enacted by the Government as the Kawerau and Murupara Township Acts 1953.
In terms of Section 3 of that Act, the Governor General by Order in Council dated 31 March 1954, established the Borough of Kawerau comprising some 1330 acres excised from the territory of Whakatane County. At the same time, under the terms of Section 5 of the Act, His Excellency the Governor General had pointed Mr. Francis Prideaux C.B.E., E.D. to be the Town Commissioner of Kawerau.
As he moved to take over responsibility Commissioner Prideaux quickly appointed Mr. D.J. Wilson to the position of Town Clerk and CEO, and set up temporary offices in the centre of town. Initially, officers from the Ministry of Works and the Health Department acted in the capacity of Health and Building Inspectors.
The Kawerau and Murupara Townships Act 1953, made provision for the appointment of an Advisory Committee to assist in the Administration and a public meeting was called on 24 November 1955 to receive nominations and elect a panel of five to constitute the Kawerau Advisory Committee. They were Messrs C.B. Boyce, C. Ellis, W.J. Firmin, R.C. Adams and B.J. Godfrey and held office for two years.
On 30 October 1957, at a further public meeting to elect a new Advisory Committee, the same five members were retained. Mr. Ellis resigned in June 1958 and was replaced by Mr. K.M. Gatfield, Mr. Adams resigned in December 1958 replaced by Mr. A.W. Western and Mr. Firmin resigned in March 1959, replaced by Mr. R.C. Stoneham.
By the time that Commissioner Prideaux was due to step down at the 1959 elections, the foundations for future growth were well and truly provided. These elections aroused a great deal of interest with Messrs Boyce and Stoneham contesting the Mayoralty and 27 candidates nominated for the five positions as Commissioners. Over 80% of those on the electoral roll turned out to vote and in a formal ceremony on 30th November 1959, Mr. Boyce was appointed Mayor, with Messrs Ion, Forbes, Boss, Hardie and Mrs Flower appointed to the five Commissioner positions. Messrs Godfrey, Kjar and Western were the Tasman Company's nominated Commissioners.
A new era in the town's history was underway.