Some of Dunedin's community boards say a proposal to cut them back will split communities in half and hurt local democracy.
Yesterday after a three-and-a-half-hour debate, city councillors agreed to seek public feedback on the changes which would abolish the ward voting system, merge two community boards and reduce the number of elected board members from 6 to 4.
The six community boards mostly oppose the changes.
But councillor David Benson-Pope said the hybrid system of wards and community boards could be described as a dog's breakfast, and they were hard to justify.
Mr Benson-Pope said if the community boards were so good, they should cover all Dunedin suburbs.
Dunedin mayor Dave Cull, who was on the review group, told councillors some community boards do extremely good work, but it was time to make changes.
"The majority of the people in the community group areas were either unaware of the work their community board did, or didn't feel they gave them good representation."
He said that was backed up by the number of times boards were appointed un-elected.
"Frankly, if a board is elected unelected they not representing anybody," he said.
Chairperson of Otago Peninsula board, Christine Garey, said the report came as a shock to all their communities and another chair, Steve Walker, said the plan would hurt local democracy.
Two board chairs left the debate halfway through, and another, Bill Feather from the Mosgiel-Taieri board said he supported putting the ideas to the public.
Councillor Neville Peat said things did not look good for the boards.
"It seems like there is quite a chill wind blowing in the direction of the community boards."
Councillor Andrew Noone, who was elected unopposed as a rural ward councillor, challenged the use of statistics and whether 275 submissions was enough to base big changes on.
The review group's chairperson, Otago University professor Janine Hayward, said the committee got more than 1000 written comments, but it was not a numbers game.
The council is now set to consult the public for a month from the end of June and argue it all again in August.