A quirk of proposed local government reform means small councils can be swallowed by larger ones even if every person in the smaller community opposes it.
It means councils such as those in Hawera, Ruapehu, Feilding and Upper Hutt could be amalgamated into their bigger neighbours, despite any objections they might have.
Present rules mean that, if amalgamation between councils is to occur, a poll has to be taken, with a majority in each area voting for change.
Proposed changes to the Local Government Act 2002 would mean that, to prevent amalgamation, communities have to get 10 per cent of the population of the new, larger, authority to sign a petition against it.
They would have only 40 days to get such a petition signed.
But many smaller communities do not have 10 per cent of the wider population, even if everyone in that community opposed amalgamation.
For example, if a super Hawke's Bay council was proposed, those in Wairoa - which now has its own council - would not be able to gather enough people to have 10 per cent of the wider Hawke's Bay population.
The population of Upper Hutt - which has shown the strongest opposition to a possible greater Wellington super-council - makes up only 8 per cent of the wider region.
Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy said the proposal would mean large councils could impose amalgamations.
"Forty days to get that many [signatures] is impossible. If you are serious about having a poll, it's got to be achievable."
He backed a call from Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace for a mandatory poll of residents if changes were proposed.
Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott also backed that call.
"The mayors who want amalgamation will think it's the best reform since sliced bread," she said.
"Those who think the community should make that decision will think these reforms are just another bigger-is-better ideology."
MAYOR: LET ME PUNISH MISCREANTS
Misbehaving councillors could lose pay or be banned from meetings under a proposal from a mayor whose council has just paid up to $60,000 because of a councillor's "piece of skirt" comment.
New Plymouth Mayor Harry Duynhoven told a select committee looking at local government reform yesterday that councils needed powers to more effectively censure politicians who were "destructive" to council processes, failed to turn up to meetings, or got the council in legal trouble for their public statements.
In exceptional circumstances, councillors who break codes of conduct can be removed from meetings, taken off committees and be removed from chairmanship roles, and have their portfolios stripped.
Mr Duynhoven's suggestions go further - he wants councils to have powers similar to those of Parliament's Speaker to cut the pay of those who misbehave, and to ban them from meetings.
Outside the committee, he said every council had "destructive" councillors who made untrue and unethical public comments, misrepresented the council, and broke codes of conduct.
In April, Fairfax Media reported that New Plymouth District Council had a $43,000 legal bill to Simpson Grierson after councillor John McLeod branded council chief executive Barbara McKerrow a "piece of skirt".
Mr McLeod said yesterday the mayor's call for greater powers of censure were a way to cut down on opposing views.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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