Social-media attacks on his council have caused Napier Mayor Bill Dalton to seriously consider moving away from the city when he retires at the end of his term.

Earlier this week Mr Dalton sent an email to all 12 councillors about the "personal abuse" 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.

While he expected a certain level of criticism as a politician, Mr Dalton said those comments had become personal and were taking a toll on councillors and their families. It had reached such an extent that he and his wife would "consider our options" when thinking about where to retire.


"My wife was in tears this afternoon. At the end of the day I'm a politician and I have to wear it, that's what it is - but when there's a concerted attack ...

"It's not just us who live [in Napier]. Our wives live here and these people [on social media] somehow think that this personal abuse doesn't have an effect on our families - and it does."

While other councils dealt with criticism, he thought that what Napier City was experiencing was unique.

"What we've got in Napier is personal abuse and personal bullying and I don't see that around [New Zealand].

"At the end of the day other people need to accept that just mindless abuse actually achieves absolutely nothing."

Mr Dalton said he did not think the personal criticism was fair, when he and Mr Jack were only two members of a council with more than 500 staff and had called for councillors to support Mr Jack as their chief executive.

"What happened was, Wayne came to me the other day and said, 'I've just had a phone call from my wife, she was in tears because of the personal abuse'," Mr Dalton said.

"That night I sat down and wrote to all my councillors and said, 'he is coming under unfair levels of abuse and we need to stand by our man'."


Mr Jack's term as chief executive - which he started in 2013 - has recently finished and the council is advertising his role. He is understood to have reapplied for the job.

Mr Dalton said his call to support Mr Jack had nothing to do with that recruitment process.

"The claim that by calling for support of my CE, who's my sole employee, to suggest that that somehow may render me ineligible to choose the next CE for Napier City Council is nonsense.

"It was a case of me, as a responsible employer, saying to my councillors to stand by our only employee.

"If an employer is not allowed to ask for support of their employee there's something wrong."

Other councillors have come out in defence of the two men.

Although elected representatives expected to take some heat, councillor Tony Jeffery said it was "quite cowardly" to attack council staff.

"They've gone through the strategic realignment last year and this year they've got to vacate their buildings - we can see the pressure they're under.

"I'm not scared to call a spade a spade but there's a line you don't cross - you don't personally attack employees of council."

Mr Jeffery addedthat if the council was not happy with the CE, they had ways to address that.

Councillor Keith Price said he did not think Mr Dalton's call for support of Mr Jack showed any bias, rather that it implied "we should support him as our CEO but we should be very open and neutral as to the filling of the vacancy".

"We've got to support him because he's being ambushed a bit ... but I didn't take it as supporting his reemployment."

Councillor Annette Brosnan said she was disappointed the email had been made public, as she felt the mayor should have been able to speak with councillors in confidence.

"You take a certain amount of flak as a public servant ... you should be able to express that to your colleagues and look for support from your colleagues," she said.