Two big law firms - Simpson Grierson and Russell McVeagh - have billed more than $700,000 to the agency designing the Auckland Super City.
The firms were the big winners in a tender process to provide legal advice.
Thirty-nine law firms expressed interest to the Auckland Transition Agency, which has the task of melding the region's existing eight councils into a single council by November 1.
The agency's project management office found Simpson Grierson offered the lowest fee structure. Russell McVeagh offered a similar price and agreed to match its competitor.
The two law firms' fees were "significantly less" than other firms.
So far, Simpson Grierson, which provides legal services to several Auckland councils, has been paid $516,515 for work in finance, human resources and economic development areas.
Russell McVeagh has been paid $200,113 for legal work in the tax, property and business solution areas.
The agency has also spent $43,970 with Wilson Harle and $2800 with Shortland Chambers.
It plans to use Harmos Horton Lusk for investment work and Meredith Connell for work in the prosecutions area.
An agency spokesman could not say yesterday how much the two big law firms would be paid from the $16.4 million budget for consultancy work setting up the Super City. Law firms were expected to be paid about $2 million in total, he said.
The agency is budgeting to spend $34.4 million in set-up costs, funded by a Crown loan. The loan will be transferred to the new Auckland Council to be paid for by ratepayers.
The agency's in-house legal expert, former Simpson Grierson chairman Rob Fisher, played no part in the tender process.
Super City legal costs
* Simpson Grierson: $516,515
* Russell McVeagh: $200,113
* Wilson Harle: $43,970
* Shortland Chambers: $2800