There were interruptions, wild gestures and even threats of bringing out a whistle.

The top three Christchurch mayoral candidates John Minto, Lianne Dalziel and Darryll Park have gone head to head on the city's hot topics, in tonight's NZ Herald Newstalk ZB debate.

The debate host, Newstalk ZB Canterbury Morning's Chris Lynch, had to step in several times to settle things down, saying he'd bring out a whistle.

Controversial topics included water bottling, chlorination, the Eastern suburbs and the Crusaders name change.

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Park said if elected, he would take away Akaroa's wharf upgrade funding to keep to zero rates increases.

Dalziel didn't take that quietly.

"Well that's interesting, the people of Akaroa will be very interested in what you're talking about Darryll."

Minto kept out of it, instead calling for free public transport to revitalise the city centre.

There was continued debate over the best way to keep the Christchurch drinking-water supply chlorine free.

Dalziel insisted the council is doing everything it can.

Minto moved on to nitrate levels, saying they're a bigger threat to drinking water than chlorine.

He said the 44,000-cow dairy farm about to start up north of the Waimakariri River is a huge concern.

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"We've got to have the courage to speak up about what's happening on the Canterbury Plains."

Dalziel agreed.

She said the Government has taken a precautionary approach to chlorine, but really needs to with nitrates.

Christchurch Mayoral candidates John Minto, Lianne Dalziel and Darryll Park during the debate hosted by Newstalk ZB and NZME.
Christchurch Mayoral candidates John Minto, Lianne Dalziel and Darryll Park during the debate hosted by Newstalk ZB and NZME.

Park wouldn't be drawn into a nitrates debate, preferring to stick to the subject of chlorination.

He and Dalziel spoke over top of each other when it came to water bottling, with host Chris Lynch having to break in.

Park insisted drinking water belongs to Canterbury and legislation should be changed to stop water bottling.

Minto and Park ganged up on the current mayor, claiming inaction in the earthquake-stricken Eastern suburbs.

Minto said people were complaining about the East's shocking state of infrastructure in the last election ... and it's got worse.

Park agreed.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have someone drive down the road without breaking an axle, or walk down the footpath without breaking an ankle?"

But Dalziel pushed back, saying Eastern residents haven't been forgotten and a lot's been done.

Minto continued his call for upgraded social housing, saying it's appalling.

He even went as far as inviting his fellow debaters to go for a walk and see the "horrendous" state people are living in.

"I feel embarrassed to be part of a city where in a sense I'm one of the landlords, through being a ratepayer."

But Park rejected Minto's call for using the Government's $300 million on social housing rather than a stadium.

There may have been some tough spots, but contenders were all still sitting next to each other by the end of the night.

Dalziel ended on a positive, reflecting on the identity of Christchurch.

"There's been tragedy after tragedy affect our city and every time something happens, people come together... that is who we are."