Lawrence Yule's political rivals have used the Hastings Mayor's latest overseas trip to repeat earlier criticisms of the amount of time he spends outside the region.

Two councillors who unsuccessfully challenged Mr Yule for the mayoralty in last month's local body election say his time would be better spent at home, but his deputy, Acting Mayor Cynthia Bowers, says the travel benefits the district.

Mr Yule is due back at the council on Tuesday after a two-and-a-half-week trip which has included meetings in London, China and Sri Lanka.

As well as being Mayor of Hastings, Mr Yule is president of Local Government New Zealand and chairman of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) which has funded his present trip.


He was in London to chair a two-day CLGF board meeting and also met with the UK Minister of Local Government and held talks with the UK Local Government Association.

On the way he stopped off in China to follow-up on a number of developing business opportunities on behalf of Hastings District Council, council spokesman Ross Holden said.

Mr Yule is currently representing CLGF at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka and will also attend the Commonwealth Business Forum.

His time away has coincided with two high-profile incidents - an attack on an 87-year-old woman outside her home and the sudden deaths of two Flaxmere College students. As Acting Mayor Ms Bowers has held meetings with Flaxmere community leaders following the two deaths.

Councillor Wayne Bradshaw, one of two councillors to run against Mr Yule in last month's election, said Mr Yule had told voters during the campaign that his other commitments only required a day a week of his time and there were "a whole lot of issues" in the district he should be attending to. "If you want to be running the district, be in the district," Mr Bradshaw said.

The other councillor to unsuccessfully challenge Mr Yule for the mayoralty, Simon Dixon, said Mr Yule's travel did not benefit the district and compromised Hastings' position in some matters where Mr Yule had to be seen to be representing the whole of New Zealand.

Mr Yule could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Ms Bowers said Mr Yule had contact with a lot of influential people in his LGNZ and CLGF roles and that influence "rubbed off" on the district. She and Mr Yule had worked together as mayor and deputy mayor through four terms of council and there was a seamless leadership transition between the two whenever he travelled.

She said Mr Yule worked hard to ensure he could effectively carry out the three roles and kept in close touch with the district when he was away. She said it was Mr Yule who phoned her from overseas at 5.30am to inform her about the death of one of the Flaxmere students.

Mr Holden said all the costs of Mr Yule's trip, except for domestic travel within China, had been met by CLGF.