Western Bay mayor Garry Webber has rejected accusations he has a job promised to him in the Three Waters Reform as the council considers potentially approving the proposal.
The denial came in response to a tirade directed at him by Katikati ratepayer group members during a Western Bay of Plenty District Council meeting on Thursday.
One group member accused him of having a ''conflict of interest'' and said he should stand down while another, in addressing Webber, said he was '"disgusted you have ended up eating out of the hand of the red Government".
Webber rejected the accusations of a promised job, saying he would be retired when Three Waters was introduced.
Group member and former councillor Christina Humphreys used the meeting's public forum to demand a binding referendum on whether the Western Bay should be part of the sweeping changes proposed.
The Three Waters Reform aims to overhaul local government's drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services into three or four multi-regional entities under public ownership. The exact size, shape and design of these entities were still being worked through.
Humphreys told councillors her group was "not particularly happy about how this is going".
"We see no benefit to the ratepayers, just cost. What is the benefit of giving away our utilities?"
Humphreys questioned an alleged lack of communication about what impact Three Waters could have locally.
"There's been virtually no consultation with Three Waters," she said.
"We own the water, not just the councillors. Think about the people paying the bill."
Humphreys then told the mayor if the council went against the "wish of the people" then her group would return and demand his resignation.
"The word is you have been promised a position [with Three Waters]. We consider this as a conflict of interest. You should stand down because this would be considered a pre-determined decision on your part," she claimed.
Last month, the Government announced a $2.45 billion package to support councils' transition through the reform. Humphreys labelled the funding as "bribery".
Ted Meade addressed Webber next and said he was "disgusted you have ended up eating out of the hand of the red Government".
"People are very, very important. Ratepayers are the ones to keep everything afloat - not the Government, or Māori. By the way, very few Māori are ratepayers," he said.
"We have to think of the future generations and their children. What is our involvement in all of this? What have you been promised by big business?"
Meade suggested there was an "abuse of power" and he was not prepared to tolerate it any further.
Webber thanked Humphreys and Meade but rejected the accusations of a promised job, saying that when the Three Waters eventually came into play, he would be retired.
"There are no appointments I have got. I suggest you check your database and your information."
He reminded people Three Waters was a central government initiative and the council was still working out its response, which was due by October 1.
Under the proposed reform, councils have the option to opt out if they did not agree with it.
The council has until October 1 to respond to the Government with what, if any, modifications they suggest. This leaves two months for the potential referendum, which was understood to be not long enough.
When questioned by councillor Margaret Murray-Benge for an explanation as to why a referendum would be unlikely due to the length of time it would take, Webber said: "I do not wish to comment on people demanding a referendum ... everyone's entitled to their opinion, I respect that. I don't necessarily agree with it.
"These people have approached us but we are nowhere near a position to answer them," he said.
Webber explained the council was still working on the proposal, which was not yet modified and not expected to be finalised until after October.
"At that stage, it may be that we take it out for public consultation. Until we get something serious, we can't do anything," he said.
"There's a lot of misunderstanding out there. There's a lot of confusion."
Councillor Anne Henry suggested that while there was no time for a formal council referendum, the group could create one themselves as a citizens' referendum.