Hastings District Council's Lawrence Yule has been labelled the "jack-in-the-box mayor" by one of two people challenging him for the top job at the October local government elections.
The race for the mayor's robe and chains now looks like a three-way event with councillors Wayne Bradshaw and Simon Nixon confirming their intention to run against incumbent Mr Yule.
The two challengers were critical of Mr Yule's work outside of Hastings, as president of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) and chairman of the international Commonwealth Mayoral Forum.
Cr Bradshaw said Hastings needed a full-time mayor and he would not be "distracted" by other commitments, which had resulted in Mr Yule attending "far fewer" council meetings.
Cr Nixon agreed and said the mayor of Hastings should be with the council working as the "interface" between it and the community.
"Last month Lawrence was in Lagos in Nigeria and a month before that was in China with the PM.
"Next month he'll be in China with the council and you really have to question whether we should keep tabs on what he's doing.
"I call him the jack-in-the-box mayor because he pops up and then disappears quickly and I doubt whether that is truly effective representation."
Cr Bradshaw said he was one of the few councillors who opposed Mr Yule on many issues and had a clear idea on how to remedy the problems created in the last decade.
"I am particularly concerned that rates have spiralled over the decade way in excess of inflation and we have little positive to show for this expenditure. At the same time council debt has also grown hugely with potential difficulties for ratepayers."
He could see advantages of the Hawke's Bay region merging into one council but opposed to plundering the resources of Napier city and the regional councils.
"Hastings is a wealthy district. It has just been mismanaged over the last decade."
Mr Yule said he had been up front about his work for the other organisations but Hastings always came first. He spent a day in Wellington for LGNZ and the commonwealth forum involved a conference call as well as an international trip once a year.
"I got invited to China by the PM because I'm president of LGNZ and we looked at the benefits of streamlining sister cities, driving economic development, of which there are direct benefits for Hastings.
"Some of the policy development work I get involved in are significant and do have benefit for our region, far beyond what I would be able to achieve if I was just mayor."
Mr Yule said he would continue to work for LGNZ and the forum as long as those organisations wanted him in the elected positions.
He looked forward to the challenge being mounted by Crs Bradshaw and Nixon.
"If you look at my record of attending functions, I go to a lot of things yet I have never seen them at those events representing Hastings. I find it hard to understand the criticism when they don't appear themselves.
"I would like to see them [Bradshaw and Nixon] come forward with some ideas, to show what they are going to do. At the moment Cr Bradshaw seems to be against everything."