Local Government Minister Rodney Hide says he is not optimistic about the chances of two Northland councils that want to be unitary authorities.
The Far North and Whangarei District Councils are working on a plan to abolish Northland Regional Council and take over its assets.
The regional council and the Kaipara District Council are against the idea.
Mr Hide says unless there's a unified approach by all four councils to the Local Government Commission, a unitary proposal is unlikely to fly.
He says the commission expects to see agreement between councils, and that is not the case in Northland.