The 2006 reorganisation of New Zealand provincial rugby replaced the NPC's former three-division setup with two distinct competitions. This differs from the original two-division setup used in the NPC from its creation in 1976 through 1984 in two key ways. First, the two current competitions are nationwide, while the original NPC Division Two was split on a North Island/South Island basis. Second, the NZRU ruled that there would initially be no promotion or relegation between the Air New Zealand Cup and Heartland Championship—a feature that had always been present in the former NPC.
Also, the number of teams was reduced to 26, as the Marlborough and Nelson Bays unions merged to form the new Tasman union.
The 2006 expansion of the Super 12 and Tri Nations Series had a major effect on the Air New Zealand Cup. This expansion created the Super 14, adding two extra fixtures to that competition, and also added two more Tri-Nations matches for the All Blacks, at least in non-World Cup years. Because of these changes, it was intended for players in the All Blacks selection pool to make only limited appearances in the Air New Zealand Cup.
On August 11, 2008 the New Zealand Rugby Union initially announced that Tasman and Northland would both be relegated from the Air New Zealand Cup after the completion of the 2008 season. Both teams failed to meet criteria which included financial stability, population, player training and development, playing history, and administration. This decision was reversed towards the end of the 2008 season, with Tasman and Northland remaining in the competition for two more years
The following teams contest the Air New Zealand Cup:
|Province||Super Rugby Partner||Stadium||Championships*||2007 Placing|
|Auckland||Blues||Eden Park, Auckland||16||1|
|Bay of Plenty||Chiefs|| Blue Chip Stadium, Tauranga|
Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
|Canterbury||Crusaders||AMI Stadium, Christchurch||5||3|
|Counties Manukau||Chiefs||Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland||1||14|
|Hawke's Bay||Hurricanes||McLean Park, Napier||0||4|
|Manawatu||Hurricanes||FMG Stadium, Palmerston North||1||12|
|North Harbour||Blues||North Harbour Stadium, Albany||0||9|
|Northland||Blues||ITM Stadium, Whangarei||0||10|
|Southland||Highlanders||Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill||0||6|
|Taranaki||Hurricanes||Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth||0||8|
|Tasman||Crusaders|| Trafalgar Park, Nelson |
Lansdowne Park, Blenheim
|Waikato||Chiefs||Waikato Stadium, Hamilton||2||5|
|Wellington||Hurricanes||Westpac Stadium, Wellington||4||2|