Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule has hit back at accusations that his district is not willing to work with other councils to promote Hawke's Bay's economic development.
The claims were made by Napier Mayor Bill Dalton in an email that was sent to Mr Yule on Thursday.
The email was read out by Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler, who was copied in, at a council meeting this week.
"I am constantly getting reports that Hastings will not engage and you have [been] personally quoted as saying Hastings can do better," the email stated.
"That doesn't bode well for us all working together for the good of the region."
The email was met with surprise by the Central Hawke's Bay councillors, with councillor Kelly Annand saying it was "this kind of stuff" that prevented the region from moving forward.
Her Deputy Mayor, Ian Sharpe, said it was good that amalgamation debate was over "because you can see Napier and Hastings co-operating brilliantly now".
When Mr Dalton was phoned about the email, he said he sent it out so the Bay's local authorities could discuss the region's branding issues, to find a "better way" forward.
In the email, Mr Dalton said the branding of Hawke's Bay "has got rather silly and confusing" - with Hastings Heart of Hawke's Bay, Napier Now and the intersectoral group adopting "Lift the Bay" as a brand to serve the whole region.
"We now have a further complication, it appears Hastings District are not prepared to adopt the RED [Regional Economic Development] strategy," Mr Dalton said in the email.
Mr Yule said he was disappointed that a personal letter sent to him was released at a council meeting within a few hours of it being sent and before he had a chance to respond.
He said he "strongly disagreed" with the assertion that his council would not adopt the RED strategy.
"Hastings CEO Ross McLeod has been on the governance board from the start and we have had staff helping to put the strategy together," he said. "Like all the other councils in the region, Hastings has not seen the strategy as yet but I fully expect the council will support it. It's working together constructively on implementation that will count."
However, in his email Mr Dalton alleged the Hastings mayor's unwillingness to work with the rest of the region was "made obvious in the comments in [last month's] North South [magazine] article".
Mr Yule said he had no reaction to that, qualifying his comments.
"I was questioned around Auckland and the fact it had just received billions to upgrade its rail network," he said.
"Then I was asked if Hawke's Bay needed similar support. At that point, I said that, without a plan, it would be difficult to attract funds.
"Hopefully, when we get to see the RED strategy this plan will be included."
Mr Dalton's email also opened old wounds, as he again took aim at the Hastings District Council brand Great Things Grow Here, saying it was a brand they were trying to "impose" on people.
"I do not believe that brand is appropriate for our whole region," Mr Dalton said in his email.
"Napier City's view [is] Great Things Grow Here is an entirely appropriate brand to promote the primary produce [that] Hawke's Bay has grown [to] around the world," Mr Dalton's email said, as read by Mr Butler.
"It could be attached to every sack of spuds, every case of wine, every case of apples and every log of wood."
Mr Dalton said, in his email, that it was not, in "our opinion", an appropriate economic development brand for the region that it did not work for tourism and, as such, did not work for Napier.
However, he said the campaign had its place and that was to brand the region's produce. "Great Things Grow Here is an excellent brand to slap on every piece of primary produce that is grown in Hawke's Bay. But for that reason it is not an economic development branding platform."
Mr Yule said whether a council adopted the Great Things Grow Here brand was irrelevant - that it could be used by anybody who wanted to use it and that lots of businesses were excited to use it. "Its success will be determined by its use and businesses will determine this. If people don't want to use it, they won't," he said.
"If Napier doesn't want to use it, there is no compulsion to do so.
"It was something developed to help exporters and businesses in the region that had been calling out for something like this."
Mr Dalton also said to Mr Yule that Tourism Hawke's Bay, too, had concerns with Great Things Grow Here being "used as a regional brand".
However, Tourism Hawke's Bay general manager Annie Dundas said she had no problem with the brand, as long as it was not used in a tourism capacity.
"I think it is a great mechanism to promote the businesses we have to other businesses, and for opportunities in the business arena, but obviously very much in a consumer space," she said.
Mr Yule said Ms Dundas loved Great Things Grow Here as an economic growth platform but wanted to make sure its use complemented Hawke's Bay Tourism branding efforts.
"We see no conflict between these efforts," he said.
Branding could be difficult for any region, Mr Yule said, Hawke's Bay had a strong regional tourism brand and it was important to build off the strength of that brand, with each city marketing itself under the banner - "which is what we are attempting to do".
Mr Dalton said Hawke's Bay was a better place "when we work together".
That was the reason he sent out the email. "The outcome is that I would like us to get together and come up with a plan that we can all buy into that everybody is comfortable with, for the benefit for the whole region."