Official figures show local authorities across the country recorded their first quarterly surplus in nearly five years.
In total, councils recorded a $69 million surplus in the final three months of last year.
That followed a cumulative deficit of $149 million for all councils in the first nine months of 2011.
Statistics New Zealand, which reports the figures on a quarterly basis, says councils' income rose 1.8%, while spending fell for the first time in nearly two years.
Spending on salaries was cut by $10 million, or 2-3%, during the quarter to $430 million but councils' interest and depreciation expenses both rose during the period.
Income from rates was nearly 9% higher than the same time the year before.
Rates revolts are simmering in Christchurch and Kapiti, and now too in Taranaki.
New Plymouth businessman Len Houwers led a grassroots challenge at a district council meeting on Tuesday night.