Flaxmere councillors have vowed to fight for their suburb to retain two representatives when a new Hastings District Council is elected next year, opposing plans to reduce local politician numbers from 14 to nine.
The council, as part of its representation review, wants to go out to the public with its plan to cut councillor numbers and introduce community boards.
It would mean one fewer councillor in Flaxmere, Havelock North and the Heretaunga ward while the two rural wards would be combined into one.
Hastings ward would also be reduced from six to three while two councillors "at large" would be introduced.
But Flaxmere councillors Henare O'Keefe and Jacoby Poulain lobbied their counterparts to vote for the status quo when the proposal came before the council yesterday afternoon.
"You can say I am bias towards those 10,000 people who live within a deprived, impoverished suburb, the worst in this country, we all know that," Cr O'Keefe said.
"But they deserve and need two councillors at the council table, that's what serves them best. I am asking you to stick with the status quo, I am begging you to leave Flaxmere."
Cr Poulain said there was no certainty around how effective a community board would be when the current council could not outline what its budget would be, nor its responsibilities, because those settings had to be left up to the new 2013 council.
"Furthermore, Henare O'Keefe has not found one person who has preferred the new representation model over the current one which has two Flaxmere councillors."
Other councillors thought the Hastings ward, which would have three councillors under the new proposal, also needed to have a community board because of its large size.
There were also doubts about having two councillors "at large" as there was a perception they would not be accountable to any particular community. There was also a point made that reducing councillor numbers would not mean saving money as community boards would also attract an expense.
Cr Poulain's move for the status quo didn't attract enough votes and was defeated.
A notice of motion by deputy mayor Cynthia Bowers for the decision to be delayed was passed, allowing more time for information on how community boards could function to be reported back to the council in August.
Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said he was not "wedded" to any side of the argument but wanted to see the proposed changes tested and put to the public.
"I would argue that it is not about numbers but about the quality of representation.
"We used to have four rural councillors and now we have two with an excellent rural community board operating which has been very effective.
"We can hold off making a decision today and do a bit more work looking at what community boards can do. I think we have to give the people a package which will show how to make it [council] improve."
Boards can drive change: Bowers
Deputy mayor Cynthia Bowers believes the Hastings District Council owes it to its constituents to offer a new representation model to show how it can improve the way it works in the future.
"There are councils around us that think the status quo is right but frankly I don't think it's good enough. I think we have to always look at what we are doing and ways we can improve."
Cr Bowers said it was likely there would be some form of amalgamation involving Hastings in the next decade and putting community boards in place now was crucial.
"If we can get boards working now, when it happens our community is going to be in a better position to cope with the change.
"You can bet your boots when restructure does happen there isn't going to be 14 councillors here in the Hastings district, that simply won't happen."
Cr Bowers said the council had also began working on community plans for various sections of the district and community boards would be able to drive those initiatives.
"Community boards will be able to give some strength to those plans, giving them the power to implement them."