The Whakatane District Council has decided to go through with a controversial decision to sell its pensioner flats which house at least 80 elderly.

Residents of the eastern Bay of Plenty town last month marched in protest at the council's long-term community plan which included the sale of the 79 units. A petition, signed by 4000 locals, was also delivered to the council opposing the sale. They feared the elderly - some of whom have lived there for almost 30 years - would be kicked out of their homes but the council hopes to sell the units to a specialist organisation which will keep them as pensioner housing.

If they aren't interested the sale would be opened up to private buyers subject to various conditions that would ensure their ongoing use as low-cost pensioner housing and protect tenants' rights and welfare for a period of time that would be negotiated.

Mabel Baty and her husband Don, who have have lived in their one-bedroom unit in the Alice Stone Flats for almost 30 years, participated in the march up The Strand but said they felt like it did no good.

"There's more ways of getting money than putting the oldies out isn't there?" Mrs Baty said. "That's what I reckon but at the moment they can't throw us out. If they've got any brains they won't even try."

Mrs Baty said the couple, who are in their 80s, were too old to move.

"You can't fight it, we tried. We're at the stage where it's too late to worry, just enjoy what you've got."

Their unit has been customised with steel rails to help them get around after suffering strokes.

The council adopted the 10-year plan last week after considering more than 1000 submissions and holding public hearings.

Money from the sale - which the council hopes would be at least $5 million - would be used to retire debt.

The council has 72 pensioner flats in Whakatane and seven in nearby Murupara and charges rent at 20 per cent less than market value.

Other issues raised in the plan included transferring ownership of community halls and selling public reserves and other amenities in the area. The council said it would "explore and implement alternative ownership and operational models for rural halls" and "develop a strategy for considering and evaluating land assets and reserves before proceeding with any sales".

Residents have also protested against the proposed development of a $10.47 million museum and cultural building. The council said it would instead commit $3.25 million toward the provision and development of improved facilities for the existing library and museum and gallery and look at a new development during the next long-term community plan in 2012.