Hastings voters could be split into two separate areas for next year's regional council elections, a change endorsed by the council yesterday despite only five of nine councillors being present to make the decision.
Hawke's Bay Regional Councillor Neil Kirton's decision to leave the room and not vote on the issue was later called "a disgrace" by chairman Fenton Wilson, while councillors Liz Remmerswaal, Ewan McGregor and Christine Scott were all absent from the day's meeting.
Under the new arrangement, the total of four councillors representing the Hastings region will remain, but be divided into north and south constituencies, from which two candidates representing each area would be elected.
Mr Wilson criticised Cr Kirton's decision to walk out on the council vote.
"Councillors are paid $45,000 to make decisions and Cr Kirton's decision needs to be taken in context," Mr Wilson said.
"He's paid to make decisions for the people of Napier and quite frankly it was a disgrace.
"If we have a hard decision, we have to make a call."
Cr Kirton defended his decision to not participate and said the decision would directly affect two of the absent councillors who represented the Hastings area.
"The reason I left the meeting was in protest," he said.
"They were proceeding, instead of letting the issue lie on the table in the absence of three other colleagues.
"All councillors should have been represented and it was inappropriate to proceed without them."
He said he would be making a submission to the Local Government Commission himself, questioning the validity of the council's decision.
The proposed change still requires public notification and approval from the Local Government Commission.
The new Hastings South area would encompass Kahuranaki, Waimarama, Havelock North and parts of Heretaunga, while the Hastings North area would encompass Mohaka, Flaxmere, and the majority of Heretaunga.
Another change would be the Central Hawke's Bay region classed as a Community of Interest, to better align its regional council votes with the Central Hawke's Bay District Council boundaries.