Bob Parker, riding a wave of popularity for his post-earthquake performance, has been re-elected Christchurch Mayor.
Parker will lead a council expected to have up to five new faces including two young businessmen from prominent Canterbury families.
In his first post-election interview, Parker said it was impossible to speculate whether the Christchurch earthquake and his high media profile afterwards secured him his second term in office.
"It may have had an impact but it is probably impossible to speculate on that.''
Voting figures released by the Christchurch City Council show Parker beat main rival Wigram MP Jim Anderton, with 98 percent of the vote counted.
According to the progress result, 68,245 votes were received for Bob Parker, while Anderton received 51,566 votes, a difference of 16, 679.
Of easily out-voting Anderton, Parker said: "I just didn't get into the game that I was ahead, or running equal or behind. I just focused on the job at hand.''
While he was understandably happy, Parker was already turning his mind to the new council and the mammoth post-earthquake-related decisions it faces.
Preliminary results suggest five new faces will appear around the council table later this month.
They include two young businessman with ties to two prominent Canterbury families.
Tim Carter has ousted long-serving Hagley-Ferrymead councillor David Cox for a seat at council while Jamie Gough was the highest polling candidate in the Fendalton-Waimairi ward.
Carter said he had been confident about his chances, although "you never know until the day".
He said his first focus as councillor would be the rebuilding of the city.
"Being an engineer, and having experience with commerical property, I have an awareness that some of the councillors don't, so I'd like to take a big role in that."
Gough said receiving the news about his success was "the most bizarre feeling".
"[Before the results,] when I kept thinking about it, my heart would miss a beat, and I kept saying, 'Don't think about it Jamie, don't think about it'."
He said he was looking forward to starting his work with the council.
"I can't think of anything more exciting than helping Christchurch move forward."
Long-time council candidate Aaron Keown replaces former deputy mayor Norm Withers after polling the highest in the Shirley-Papanui ward while incumbent Ngaire Button returns for another term.
The other new face will be Jimmy Chen who dominated the count in the Riccarton-Wigram ward.
Chen, who sat on the local community board, claimed to have door-knocked more than 8000 homes in the ward.
The other spot on that ward will be a close fight between two sitting councillors, Helen Broughton and Bob Shearing with just 10 votes separating them for now.
According to the progress result, at this stage the Council would include: - Aaron Keown - Ngaire Button - Jamie Gough - Sally Buck - Chrissie Williams - Glenn Livingstone - Jimmy Chen - Helen Broughton - Yani Johanson - Tim Carter - Sue Wells - Barry Corbett - Claudia Reid.
Parker's win completes one of the most remarkable comebacks in local body elections.
Before the earthquake, polls had Parker trailing Anderton but his high profile since September 4 and cool handling of the earthquake's aftermath won him widespread praise and the support of voters who backed him to run the city for a second term.
Parker, who launched his campaign in early July, stood on keeping rates down, making city streets safer and a clear vision for the future of Christchurch.
He was criticised for his involvement in some controversial behind-closed-doors council decisions of the last three years, including spending $17 million on five inner city properties owned by developer Dave Henderson, spending $3m to buy the rights for the Ellerslie International Flower Show and to contribute about $24m to a planned but failed bid for a national music conservatorium at the Arts Centre.
Parker agreed to create a more open and transparent council if re-elected and said he would push for council workshops to be open to the public.
But after the earthquake, Parker ended his re-election campaign, saying he was focused on the job of starting the city's rebuild and other earthquake-related issues.
The progress result does not include some special votes and voting papers returned today before voting closed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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