Hawke's Bay leaders are upset that Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule told a national magazine the region wasn't competitive enough and that the five councils were holding back economic development.
Mr Yule told North & South that the only thing holding together economic development in the region was a regional strategy launched in 2011 and the relationship of individuals.
He said this was not competitive enough and doubted whether the strategy would have any real effect.
Mr Yule, who is also president of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), said if central government offered Hawke's Bay $100 million he didn't think local leaders could tell it what to invest in as the region did not have a clear economic vision.
His comments were part of an article written by Jenny Keown on her experience moving from Auckland to Hawke's Bay.
Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said politicians would take note and it could limit central government spending in the region.
"For the president of LGNZ to say that chucks cold water on the whole of Hawke's Bay," Mr Little said, adding Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce may now think: "They don't need any money because the president of Local Government New Zealand said they don't."
Wairoa was working with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to secure funding to help persuade US company Rocket Lab to base its manufacturing in Wairoa rather than Gisborne for a proposed rocket launch site.
Other Hawke's Bay leaders worked well together "and for him to say that just shows how isolated he is".
"What Lawrence forgets is he nearly buggered Hawke's Bay with amalgamation," Mr Little said.
Mr Yule was a strong proponent of amalgamation but a referendum rejected this last year.
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said it was "extremely unfortunate", to suggest that Hawke's Bay would not know where to spend $100 million. A new regional economic strategy was about to be presented to Hastings District Council, Mr Dalton said.
Economic Development agency Business Hawke's Bay chief executive officer Susan White said the new strategy, a year in development, had a wider range of contributors than the previous strategy and Mr Yule's comments were premature.
She said all parties needed to look forward.
Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler said he got on "famously" with local government leaders.
"I can't work out why he has come out with that statement, because there is just so much that could be done for the whole of Hawke's Bay," Mr Butler said.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson said if $100 million was offered "we would definitely have a co-ordinated strategy in a very short time".
Mr Yule is overseas on his honeymoon and did not respond to a request for comment from Hawke's Bay Today.
"I respect the fact he is away having some valuable time.
"I just flicked him an email this morning and included the other mayors, saying it is an unfortunate use of words and we need to sort this out when you get back," Mr Wilson said.