Political warfare has broken out in Hamilton after mayor Andrew King began using his own money to amplify the city's Your Help May Harm campaign against begging in the CBD.
Mr King says one beggar in Hamilton is one too many and his move will bring the campaign to light.
However, mayoralty candidate councillor Angela O'Leary blasted the mayor on his move, which included personally paying for a full page advert in last week's Hamilton News urging people not to give money to those who beg.
Ms O'Leary, who chairs the People's Project Governance Group, says the mayor's move makes it seem like Hamilton has a serious begging problem and ignores advice from council staff and external stakeholders.
Deputy chief executive Lance Vervoort told Hamilton News today: "The messaging on the mayor's billboards is consistent with the Your Help May Harm campaign.
"The billboards are the mayor's initiative."
Ms O'Leary says. "What we know is that not all beggars are homeless, and not all homeless people beg. Without the context of the work the group has done, these adverts will send a message to visitors and our residents that we have a significant problem and that our city is unsafe. This is simply not the case and undermines the good work being done by the group."
The People's Project Governance Group was established in 2014 to address the public's concerns about the number of people who are living on the streets or sleeping rough in Hamilton.
"In comparison to other cities, Hamilton's issue is a small one; this latest crusade of the mayor's says otherwise," Ms O'Leary says.
Last weekend, Mr King followed up the advert with social media posts emphasising the message.
Mr King said all he is doing is amplifying the campaign, and does not understand why he shouldn't do that.
"You have to wonder if this is because it is election year, I can only assume this is politically motivated."
Mr King said his actions were not doing any harm, and that Hamilton needs to address the problem.
"If we have one beggar on our street, it is one beggar too many," Mr King said.
"Why are we hiding this campaign, if we have a lot to shine, then let's shine it."
The campaign is aimed at helping businesses and social support agencies to educate the community about what can be done to help people who are begging in Hamilton.
"This is a simple campaign, don't give cash and break the cycle of the begging."
In his advert, Mr King says "some people who beg in Hamilton will use the cash to fuel their addictions".
"You can help by donating your time or resources to the many charities and social agencies in Hamilton offering assistance and food to people who need help."
He said he has been approached regularly by members of the community around begging, and that he is now responding to these concerns.
Ms O'Leary says: "The message 'Your Help May Harm' was developed a few years ago as just one part of the work of The People's Project - an organisation aimed at ending homelessness.
"The message was developed for businesses in the CBD, and it was collectively agreed by the governance group that a gentle approach to rolling it out over time was appropriate."
"While we understand that at times people begging can make some members of the public feel unsafe, there are genuine vulnerable people in this story, and getting those people connected to the services they need is our main focus," Ms O'Leary said.