Waihi Beach and Maketu residents say their voices will be lost if the Western Bay District Council redraws its electoral boundaries.
The two communities are united in their opposition to the plan to axe the number of councillors from 12 to eight and reduce the electoral wards from five to three by mergers on each side of the district.
Opponents feared that their distinct communities of interest would lose their influence because of greater voting strength in the population strongholds of Katikati and Te Puke.
Arguments against the council's plan were heard at a special meeting of the council yesterday.The council will make its decision on Monday.
Under the plan, Maketu Ward would merge with Te Puke to create the Eastern Ward, with representation dropping from five councillors to three. On the other side of the district, Waihi Beach Ward would merge with Katikati to form the Western Ward, with representation dropping from three councillors to two. The central Kaimai Ward would remain intact but lose a councillor.
The council has strongly supported the three-ward option but was split on the issue of representation. The vote in June was won 6-5, with Mayor Ross Paterson and Waihi Beach councillor Anne Gilmer absent.
If Monday's vote sees Mr Paterson and Cr Gilmer support the views of 80 per cent of submitters for the council to take greater recognition of communities of interest, then a suggestion by Deputy Mayor Paul Thomas could offer a way through the impasse.
Councillor Thomas told Waihi Beach Community Board member Peter Hassell it would be possible for the council to create a "subdivision" inside the Western Ward so that Waihi Beach retained its councillor.
However, increasing the Western Ward's councillors from two to three so that Waihi Beach was represented would need to overcome the obstacle of the beach not having enough permanent residents.
A solution could be to boost Waihi Beach's electoral boundaries by adding the harbourside communities of Tanners Point and Kauri Point.
Mr Hassell argued that could be done because each Katikati Ward councillor currently represented 619 more people than the district-wide average. He criticised the council for not justifying the reduction in the number of councillors to eight, saying that Local Government Commission decisions supported continuing the status quo in the Western Bay.
"Representation must be fair and effective. It must give voice to distinctive communities and ensure there are sufficient numbers of councillors to do the job properly."
Mr Hassell said that under the council's proposal, an area contributing one-sixth of the district's rates would not be represented.
Maketu Project Team spokeswoman Elaine Tapsell feared small communities would not be heard at the council table.
"The well-being of communities should be part of what the council considers when making decisions on representation."
Mrs Tapsell said the council should stick with the status quo until the Government decided on local government reforms.
"This discussion is premature because the functions of local government are not yet finalised."
Her cousin Petera Tapsell said Maketu Ward faced a lot of social and economic challenges and residents needed to feel confident that their voice would be heard in decision-making forums.
Former councillor Sam Dunlop of Katikati called for three councillors in each of the three new wards, saying it would future-proof Western Bay representation for the "inevitable amalgamation with Tauranga".