Christchurch mayoral candidate Jim Anderton has accused the city's mayor, Bob Parker, of avoiding local body election debates for political reasons.
Mr Parker is seeking re-election but has all but abandoned the campaign, saying he is too busy dealing with the aftermath of Canterbury's earthquake - though he might be available for a debate on local radio this Friday.
"Stepping back out into the campaign at this point is just a physical difficulty," the mayor says, "let alone the psychological pressure that we're under just to make sure that we cope with all of the decisions that need making right now."
Mr Parker says there was political debate before the quake and voters have had plenty of opportunities to hear from the candidates, but Mr Anderton says he believes Mr Parker is avoiding debates as part of a political strategy.
Mayor 'backed by National Party'
The Wigram MP says the mayor is taking advantage of numerous opportunities to appear on television and in other news media outlining Christchurch's response to the earthquake.
"He's backed by the National Party here locally," Mr Anderton says, "and I suspect that he's had information which under the circumstances - probably politically - [is] very good: just don't engage in debates, you've got nothing to win, everything to lose, and just carry on looking and being the mayor."
To be truthful, Mr Anderton adds, that strategy has worked very well for Mr Parker.
But he says he has put up a range of proposals about how the city can be rebuilt and Mr Parker has a responsibility to spell out his plan for the city.