Unrest is brewing among some Hastings district councillors, with at least one promising protest action, if a plan to reduce politician numbers is approved for the 2013 local government elections.
Flaxmere ward councillor Henare O'Keefe said he would lead a march to the Hastings District Council's Lyndon Rd headquarters to oppose cuts to the suburb's councillors, from two to one.
The council proposed to reduce councillors but introduce a community board in an attempt to better connect with the 10,000 people in the suburb.
"All we have achieved so far in Flaxmere is under the current [representation] model," Councillor O'Keefe said. "You can have all of the community boards you want but the actual decision making is done by councillors around the council table.
"Flaxmere is still playing catch up and we deserve two councillors to represent the views of people.
"To put in a community board would dilute that in my opinion."
Mr O'Keefe said he had meetings with various community groups, the latest included the Flaxmere Community Patrol, and all wanted to retain two councillors.
"You could say the community patrol, they are pretty biased and sceptical on most things but, without exception, none of them wanted to lose a councillor and asked what they could do to help.
"So we will march and do whatever it takes to halt this kind of foolishness. I will go down that road. It is a lonely one but I am willing to take it, if that's what the community wants."
Havelock North also stands to lose one of its two representatives, with a community board introduced, prompting questions from the ward's councillors, Scott Henderson and Wayne Bradshaw.
"Havelock North is a growing suburb [15,000 people] and I feel it would be more effective with two councillors to carry out that role," Councillor Henderson said.
"You can see the way the suburb is expanding, with more people moving out to Arataki, and that's likely to continue.
"I don't really feel community boards will be able to handle the issues and it may create a mismatch of opinion and results within the council."
The council moved to delay a decision on a new representation model until it had reviewed how a community board could work in Hastings.
But Councillor Bradshaw said the delay was a waste of time because it looked like the final decision would still be the same, a reduction in councillor numbers.
"We are talking about improving the council, but what is being offered is less councillors but more community boards.
"We don't know what community boards will be allowed to do or not allowed to do.
"We've been told by [council chief executive] Ross McLeod that the powers of community boards will be determined by the next council, not the current one.
"So we're consulting with the public on community boards but we're not sure how those boards will work."
Community boards can succeed: Yule
Lawrence Yule Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule believes community boards can work in the district as long as they are resourced and have the "decision-making power" to act on choices for their communities.
"Otherwise it will be a waste of time. We have one of the best rural community boards in New Zealand and it's a matter of seeing how that model could be used for the people of Flaxmere and Havelock North." The council would not make any decisions that would disadvantage the two suburbs, he said.
"I don't think representation is about the number of councillors you have. It's about the quality of the decisions and the quality of the councillors that has more impact on representation."
Mr Yule said the council would spend the next three weeks looking at how community boards functioned and the results would be presented back to councillors, to help make a decision on which representation model it should speak to the public about.
"If there is support for the community board-based model, then that's the one we will approve and go out to the public with. If not, then it's the status quo model that we'll go out with."
Mr Yule said while the council could not present a menu of options to the public, anyone had the ability to respond suggesting alternative models.
"People can suggest something different. I respect the views of the other councillors but I have a view that community boards could enhance the council."