Co-founder of Hawke's Bay charity Limitless Hope Kevin Swannell has denied assaulting his wife, Kiri Swannell, with a running chainsaw and threatening to kill her.

The 43-year-old engineer, an established advocate for the region's homeless, appeared via audio visual link in the Napier District Court this morning.

He pleaded not guilty to assault and threatening to kill, electing a judge-alone trial, before Judge Bridget Mackintosh.

Swannell first appeared on December 29 accused of threatening to kill his wife on Boxing Day last year and assaulting her using a running chainsaw as a weapon the following day.

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He was arrested after the alleged offending that came at the end of a 25-year-long marriage.

Represented by defence lawyer Philip Jensen, the father-of-six appeared sombre-faced in court via videolink from the Hawke's Bay Regional Prison.

He was supported by his mother and sister who sat in the public gallery.

The Swannells had spearheaded homeless charity Limitless Hope and since 2013 been vocal at public rallies and throughout the media about those sleeping rough on Hawke's Bay streets.

In June 2015 Limitless Hope was pledged a total $66,071.60 to build an emergency shelter for the prevention of homelessness in the region.

A two-storey building was donated to the cause by Property Brokers but presented too many road blocks.

In August 2014 the Swannell family won the Community Spirit Award at the Pride of New Zealand Awards regional ceremony in Hastings and last November Kiri Swannell was one of 13 Hawke's Bay residents to receive a Local Hero medal as part of this year's Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards for her service to the community.

It's understood the couple had taken a step back from charity work at the end of last year while a soup kitchen they established in Clive Square was being run by volunteers.

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Last year Limitless Hope hosted a Christmas lunch for those in need at the Salvation Army Hall and it was expected the soup kitchen would be back up and running when school was back in session.

Kevin Swannell was remanded in custody to next appear in the Napier District Court on March 13 for a case review hearing.

Charges of assault and threatening to kill carry maximum penalties of seven and five years' imprisonment respectively.