Hawke's Bay councils are expecting the issue of amalgamation to surface next year - although it is unclear whether it will affect the 2013 local body elections.
Under the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, local body elections can be delayed for up to a year if there is progress being made towards governance restructuring.
Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott said with changes making it easy for anybody to make submissions on the issue, she "definitely" expected there would be applications about amalgamation.
"The roles have been turned and the criteria has been turned to favour amalgamation," she said. "It is trending towards big is better, so naturally I would expect an amalgamation application to go before the Local Government Commission later this year."
But she was unsure whether any potential changes would be ready by election time next year, saying only that it was a "possibility".
Under the bill anybody can apply for reorganisation of a local body. If deemed to have sufficient support it would be assessed and then publicly notified. If 10 per cent of voters petitioned against it, a poll would be held to determine a final outcome.
Napier City Council would be making a submission on the local government reforms reflecting the fact "65 per cent of Napier people do not want amalgamation", Mrs Arnott said.
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said it was too early to tell if elections could be delayed, because the "threshold" to determine a delay had not yet been decided.
"You're not just going to be allowed to delay the local elections just because you feel like it. You have to get over certain thresholds and they haven't determined that yet."
Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler said amalgamation was going to be "major" and expected the lobby group A Better Hawke's Bay to be ready to submit, but thought it may not affect the local body elections due to the time frames of the elections.