A Tauranga city councillor has called for the resignation of mayor Tenby Powell or the potential sacking of councillors, claiming "it is such a horrible work environment".
And he has the support of at least four other elected members, one of whom also described the work environment as "toxic".
But Powell isn't backing down and says he is committed to leading the city, adding that the council had a safe environment, the city now had better relationships with central government and other partners, and that he would do "my utmost to ensure a core group of councillors are more united".
The development is the latest in a series of revelations involving some of the city's elected members, who have in recent months been involved in high-profile outbursts, meeting walkouts and the ousting of the former deputy mayor.
The Bay of Plenty Times has also revealed the Department of Internal Affairs is now involved in the rift.
Councillor Steve Morris told the Bay of Plenty Times he was in the process of serving his third term as an elected member and up until now, had loved his job.
Morris said in his opinion: "Since March, since repeated outbursts in the workplace from the mayor, I hate working at Tauranga City Council. I don't like going in to work. When the mayor is absent, things are better. When he's there, I and other people are walking on eggshells. I think it's time for the mayor to accept responsibility for the situation he has helped create. I think it's time for him to resign. The city deserves better. No other workplace in New Zealand would accept this."
Morris said he would welcome such an intervention from the Government because "it's got that serious".
Morris claimed that "there are colleagues who are scared to go to work. There are others willing to forgo the next [two] years' salary and ask the Minister of Local Government to sack the council".
The Bay of Plenty Times is aware there have already been meetings in recent weeks involving the 10 city councillors where the future of Powell's leadership has been discussed.
When asked what responsibility he took himself, Morris said all councillors should accept some for the current work environment but "the fish rots from the head".
"The mayor is the leader and the tone comes down from the top. I've worked in three councils and I've never seen such behaviour," he said.
Morris claimed that, "if you challenge him, you are attacked".
Morris said he loved his job and was grateful for the opportunity "but now I feel trapped" and he "just wants it to end".
In March, Powell was censured by the council for calling councillor Andrew Hollis a "f****** climate-denying racist".
Hollis said he believed the work environment had become "toxic" and elected members could no longer be frank discussing city issues "and that in itself means we have got to a point where it's not tenable".
"We've got two years left. I know there are a number of councillors that don't want to come in anymore. They don't want to be there. I've been verbally attacked a number of times."
Hollis denied any sour grapes at having last year lost the mayoralty role to Powell, saying it was a position he had considered for the next term but not anytime soon.
"If there's a byelection, I'm very unlikely to run. I would have run in two years' time but this isn't the case. By the same token, if the pressure came on me, I would have to think about it. But I don't want to be mayor, I don't have enough experience."
Councillor John Robson agreed Powell should resign.
"I think he's failed to understand the requirements of the role to work with the councillors elected by the people of Tauranga and to do your best to create a positive, productive environment."
Robson, who also stood for the mayoralty in the previous election, said he had not given any thought to potentially contending the role if there was a byelection.
Councillor Kelvin Clout said that if Powell resigned: "I believe that the remaining 10 elected members would be both willing and able to operate as an effective governing body in a collegial and professional manner".
Clout, a former deputy mayor of two terms, also stood for the mayoralty last year.
"I do not favour intervention from the Minister of Local Government as I believe we can work through a self-initiated process to resolve our outstanding relationship issues."
In response to the councillors' comments, Powell told the Bay of Plenty Times the council had a safe environment "and claims to the contrary should be seen for what they are and viewed as the continuation of what has been a constant, distracting and negative campaign against my leadership from day one".
"I am committed to leading Tauranga progressively and I will do my utmost to ensure a core group of councillors are more united.
"The balance of councillors are welcome to put their own political aspirations aside and join us in serving our city. To continue to do otherwise is not meeting the obligations of the oath they swore and is having damaging consequences on our city's progress."
Powell said his focus was serving the city and residents and "as elected members we have all been appointed to serve our community, not ourselves".
"The signing of the Smart Growth Partnership and confirmation that government ministers will sit at the table, is testimony to what can be achieved in short order through collaboration and professional working relationships."
Powell said the city now had better relationships with central government, regional and district partners, iwi and other groups which he had worked hard to forge this year and would continue to do so in the future.
Deputy mayor and councillor Tina Salisbury said there was a process to address conflicts between elected members and she encouraged all councillors to follow it.
"It is not helpful for our community for this situation to be litigated in the press or on social media.
"They want us to get on with the job of leading our city through these very challenging times we are in right now. We need to have our heads very much in our work; businesses and families are under enormous pressure."
Councillor, and former deputy mayor, Larry Baldock said there was not much to say other than Powell's work was consistent with what he had been trying to achieve for some time.
Councillor Dawn Kiddie said she agreed with concerns raised by councillors Morris and Hollis.
In June, Baldock resigned as deputy mayor after councillors Morris, Hollis, Kiddie walked out of a meeting and Robson refused to vote in protest at Baldock cutting short a debate on Elizabeth St streetscaping - a procedural error.
Those five, and councillor Bill Grainger, signed a letter of requisition seeking a meeting to remove Baldock from the deputy mayor position and replace him with a choice elected by the council.
Comment from each elected member was sought but Grainger did not respond before deadline. Councillor Heidi Hughes declined to comment and councillor Jako Abrie said he would make his response known at the next council meeting.