Labour leader David Shearer is focusing on issues such as Christchurch's schools overhaul as part of a bid to reclaim the two Canterbury seats the party lost to National in the 2011 election.

Mr Shearer and the Labour caucus are in Christchurch today for a caucus retreat, which will also include visits around the area.

Labour has criticised National strongly over its proposals for Christchurch's schools, including mergers and closures, and Mr Shearer continued that in a speech in Christchurch last night. He said there was no logic for closing some of the schools - such as those with very little earthquake damage.

"It's increasingly clear the earthquake is a smokescreen to institute a wider agenda of closure and consolidation of schools ... My fear is Christchurch is a guinea pig and we'll soon be seeing school mergers and closures nationwide. The ministry didn't say that city would be used as an exemplar for the rest of New Zealand for nothing."


Mr Shearer also used the visit to remind Cantabrians about the Government's decision to keep Environment Canterbury in the hands of commissioners until 2016, rather than allowing elections next year.

He told the Herald he was confident Labour could win back Christchurch Central, a supposedly safe Labour seat which National's Nicky Wagner won in 2011, and Waimakariri, which National's Kate Wilkinson won from Clayton Cosgrove, who returned to Parliament on the list.