Rotorua's deputy mayor has attacked a ratepayer group for releasing an "overtly political" submission on the same day as the funeral of the mayor's husband, saying in his opinion it was a "breath-taking act of bullying".
But Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers Association (RDRR) chairwoman Glenys Searancke says the timing of the release had nothing to do with the funeral and was a "marginal issue".
The association held a press conference and issued a press statement on Tuesday afternoon outlining its submission on the Rotorua Lakes Council's draft Spatial Plan. It sent the submission to district councillors, mayor Steve Chadwick and council chief executive Geoff Williams on Tuesday.
The funeral for the mayor's husband, Rotorua lawyer John Chadwick, was held at Te Papaiouru marae earlier that same day.
Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson and senior councillor Charles Sturt said the timing of the release was in their opinion disgraceful and the submission in their view attacked the mayor personally and also referred to "regime change".
In their opinion, it was the same rhetoric used to attack the mayor and the council during the 2016 election campaign.
Mr Sturt said the group appeared to be seeking advantage over other Rotorua residents by bringing attention to its own submission.
"Their submissions hold no more weight than anyone else," he said.
"It's basically having a shot at personalities and that's not what the submission process is all about."
Mr Donaldson said the association was entitled to have an opinion and engage in the discussion on the spatial plan "but, I find their submission contains a large amount of re-skinned 2016 electioneering rhetoric and the executive summary starts with a crack at the mayor and ends with a call for regime change".
"The fact that they chose to deliver it by email to the mayor and councillors at 5.44pm on the day of John Chadwick's funeral is in my opinion a breath-taking act of bullying."
Mr Donaldson said the group could have made its submission through the usual channels and there was no need to send a submission containing an attack on the mayor and her regime and a media release "at a very sensitive time".
But Mrs Searancke said the timing had nothing to do with Mr Chadwick's funeral and compared the reaction of Mr Donaldson and Mr Sturt to "Trump's White House".
"Its [the council's] new PR strategy is to prevent discussion about the RDRR's proposals, while demanding positive comments in support of their own draft Spatial Plan," she said.
"The strategy also has the acting mayor and his minder beating up marginal issues, like timing and political tactics."
Mrs Searancke said in her opinion, "our members are tired of these PR games intended to suppress debate about the long-term future of our community. We invite all good people to read our ideas and speak out."