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In New Zealand a unitary authority is a territorial authority (district or city) which also performs the functions of a regional council. New Zealand has three unitary authorities: Gisborne District, Nelson City and Tasman District.
The term 'unitary authority' itself first surfaced in the Redcliffe-Maud Report, to describe the sort of authority the report recommended cover most of England. These sorts of authorities already existed and were called county boroughs; but the term was urban in character. The Report was rejected by the incoming government after the 1970 general election, and county boroughs were abolished in 1974. It was not until the 1990s that unitary authorities would be created in the UK.
Creation of unitary authorities
Unitary authorities can be created by statutory instruments, so do not require separate legislation, under the terms of the Local Government Act 1992. Typically a district of an administrative county is designated as a new administrative county, but without a county council. The borders of the original administrative county are adjusted to exclude the unitary authority area. In common usage unitary authority areas are not usually referred to as counties, although there are exceptions such as the unitary authority of county of Herefordshire, which along with Rutland was a reinstatement of an administrative county lost in the 1974 reorganisation, and the road signs of Herefordshire now refer to it as a county.
In some cases, such as the boroughs of the metropolitan counties and Berkshire the unitary authorities are not legally counties in their own right, but have instead had all functions transferred to them and the county council has been abolished. This is in practical terms the same thing.
Scotland and Wales consistently use unitary authorities. They have been becoming common in England since the 1990s. However the two-tier arrangement (increasing to three-tiers, for the remaining county administrations) has remained in a different form due to the introduction of a regional level of administration.