A unitary authority is a local government council with both district/city and regional powers.

At the most recent large reorganisation of local government, in 1989, the only unitary authority created was Gisborne District Council. However, a few years later the Nelson-Marlborough region was abolished, the constituent Kaikoura District was declared to be part of the Canterbury Region, and the remaining three authorities, Marlborough District Council, Nelson City Council, and Tasman District Council, were made unitary authorities.

The Chatham Islands territory has a similar authority, the Chatham Islands Council, which in 1995 replaced New Zealand's last remaining county council.

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