Napier City councillors have thrown their support behind their mayor and chief executive - who have spoken out about the "personal abuse" they have been receiving online.

Last week Napier Mayor Bill Dalton sent an email to all 12 councillors about the ''personal attacks'' directed at himself and council chief executive Wayne Jack, warning that Napier City could be the first council destroyed by social media.

The council has come under increasing fire on social media this year, with residents taking to websites and Facebook to express their views on council plans and projects.

Although politicians expected a certain level of criticism, this had become personal, Mr Dalton said, and was taking a toll on his family, and Mr Jack's. He called for councillors to support the chief executive, as their sole employee.

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This call appears to have been answered, with councillors saying that while this kind of online behaviour appears to be the new normal, "all we can do is support our colleagues when they are under attack like this".

Deputy Mayor Faye White said she thought the "cyber bullying" had been directed at the two men because of their visibility. Mr Jack had been brought in as a "change manager", and there would be people who did not like the changes made at council.

She said councillors did "have different views about how things are done but at the end of the day you are a team and you are there to support the CE and [the Mayor] and what they do."

At-large councillor Kirsten Wise said while they expected some backlash over council decisions that people didn't agree with, "it's just at a whole new level now" due to social media.

"Social media makes it easier for anybody and everybody to sit at a keyboard and fire out what can become some quite personal attacks that they probably would never dream of saying to somebody face to face.

"Yes there's people in the community that aren't happy with decisions that have been made, and lack of consultation around things but ... there's no excuse for the level of the attacks."

While residents were entitled to their opinion, Ahuriri Councillor Larry Dallimore said it was unfair that elected representatives were being personally attacked.

It was feared by Taradale councillor Tania Wright that this kind of behaviour could discourage people from standing for public office.

"I think that's sad, if it turns people away from putting their hand up then we're all going to be the poorer for it as a community."

Although Ms Wright said she felt councillors role was to "show a united front to the community", they also needed to question things.

"So it's a difficult balancing act".

At-Large councillor Richard McGrath said the council needed to pay attention to the online comments, as this was "the modern way of doing things".

"We've got to look at the criticism and examine it and go 'what can we do better, are we missing something' ... or is it just the same council haters over and over.

"If it's not, then we've got to look at what the concerns are and address them."

Since his frustration over the online abuse had become public, Mr Dalton said he had received "amazing messages of support" for himself and Mr Jack from across the Napier community.

"it just proves that those that are on social media are the minority".

Councillors have said they were "horrified" that someone - presumably a councillor - had leaked Mr Dalton's email, and how this might impact council processes.

Councillor Keith Price said sometimes councillors needed to speak with each other in confidence, and now some might feel uncertain about doing so.

"I feel personally saddened," Ms White said, "that the mayor can't send a confidential email to his councillors. When the trust goes ... it's never quite the same."

Mr Dalton did not want to comment when asked if he thought one of his councillors was responsible for the leak.