The tournament was launched back in 2006, when the Air New Zealand Cup replaced the National Provincial Championship, which had been in place since 1976.
In its first season, the competition became New Zealand rugby’s first ever professional rugby competition. Since its debut, the competition has been named after several sponsors. Although it continued as the Air New Zealand Cup until 2009, it was known as the ITM Cup until 2016, when it became the Mitre 10 Cup. Since the 2021 season, it has been known as the Bunnings NPC.
The Bunnings NPC has existed in various forms over the years, but the competition has kept the same format since 2013. Since then, the Bunnings NPC has been a 14-team tournament that has contained two divisions and a promotion/relegation system.
Each of these divisions contains seven teams and each team plays everyone in their own division and four teams in the other division. The purpose of this is to maintain some traditional provincial rivalries. As a result, certain unions in the competition still play for inter-union trophies. For example, Wellington face Auckland for the Fred Lucas Memorial Trophy.