More than 200 Whakatane locals yesterday marched in protest at the council's 10-year district plan, which proposes selling the town's pensioner flats, which house at least 80 retirees.

Residents of the small eastern Bay of Plenty town also opposed the proposed development of a $10.47 million museum and cultural building. One person yelled, "We don't need a Te Papa", and another called the centre a "white elephant".

Other issues challenged in the plan included transferring ownership of community halls and selling public reserves and other amenities in the area.

The 500m march, from Whakatane's information centre to the town's council buildings, was organised by the local Grey Power branch and joined by advocacy group Every Voice Counts, residents of the town's pensioner flats and other disgruntled locals.

Robert Bruere, minister of St George and St John Anglican-Methodist Church, led the procession up The Strand.

In April, Mr Bruere launched a petition at one of his Sunday services against aspects of the plan. It had gained 4000 signatures before it was presented to Mayor Colin Holmes on Monday. The mayor was not at yesterday's march as he was at the Fieldays in Hamilton, something that angered several residents.

The council is considering selling its 79 pensioner units in the hope of raising at least $5 million to spend on capital projects such as a new rubbish dump.

The elderly tenants, who rent the flats at 20 per cent less than market rentals, have not been offered anywhere else to go but the council hopes to sell to a specialist organisation which will keep the flats as pensioner housing.

If they aren't interested the sale would be opened up to private buyers with the council considering including a clause which keeps the flats as pensioner housing for a period of time.

People yesterday held up signs with slogans such as "Respect the retired", "Listen to what we say, pensioner flats must stay" and "10 year plan, start again".

Deputy Mayor Graeme Hanlen was waiting at the council buildings to respond to public feedback.

Mr Hanlen said the plan was still in draft form so no definite decisions had been made. But Grey Power member Peter McRae argued that the council had already bought four shops in the Kakahoroa Drive area for the development of the new culture centre.

Mr Hanlen said the shops could be sold on if building did not go ahead.

The council has received 1100 submissions for the 10-year-plan and public hearings are to start next week.