A bid to create a Hamilton "super city" has been dubbed a cash-grabbing exercise by a neighbouring mayor.
The Hamilton City Council yesterday announced "high-level" support to extend the city boundaries - which would affect the Waipa and Waikato district councils - and become a unitary authority.
In a closed workshop prompted by the local government reform announcement this month, the city council also supported merging some of the nine district councils in the Waikato to form larger rural councils.
But Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson accused the city council of wanting to expand its boundaries to help pay off a $400 million debt.
He said he was "quite happy" to debate local government reform in the region "but it has to be for the right reasons ... and not just do it because one of the parties needs additional cash flow".
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said expanding the city's boundaries would bring together communities with similar interests and address long-term growth needs.
She said merging the regional and city council roles would reduce duplication in planning and transport.
Ms Hardaker said the councillors were unanimous in their opinion that fewer and larger rural councils would enable them to better promote the region and work better with the Auckland Council.
Other Waikato mayors told the Weekend Herald they were waiting for the outcomes from the Waikato Forum, set up to look at a regional reform. The first meeting of the forum is to be held on Monday morning.
Waipa Mayor Alan Livingston said it was "far too early to be looking at that kind of detail".
Hauraki Mayor John Tregidga, one of Waikato's longest-serving mayors, said the councils needed to work together if they were going to make improvements.
Mr Tregidga challenged the Hamilton suggestions about forming a unitary authority because he did not think it would work in the Waikato.
"Unitary authorities need to be around water catchments. You can't have Taupo and Hamilton sitting in the same council."
However, he believed three levels of governance was too many for a country the size of New Zealand.
Waikato Regional Council chairman Peter Buckley - recently under fire for lobbying the Government for more power without the knowledge or support of the region's other mayors - said his council was waiting for the new legislation to be enacted before deciding on a position.