Close call for new mayor

20:19, Mar 08 2012

Margaret Kouvelis is the Manawatu district's new mayor with a wafer-thin 14-vote majority – but there are no plans for a recount from her nearest rival.

Provisional results released yesterday showed bookshop owner Mrs Kouvelis, 63, won the by-election, ahead of councillor Steve Gibson.

Mr Gibson has confirmed he will not seek a recount.

Mrs Kouvelis got 3293 votes, Mr Gibson had 3279, Barbara Cameron 2946 and Russell Johnson 379.

Mrs Kouvelis said she would be mindful during her mayoralty of how tight the race was. "I thought it would be close, I was always very aware Barbara and I could split the vote, and I think that's what happened." Mrs Cameron said the voter turnout of under 50 per cent was disappointing.

"It's really interesting that one relatively new councillor who hasn't done the hard yards ... was chosen," she said.


The mayoralty was vacated by Ian McKelvie last year after he was elected MP for Rangitikei.

Mrs Kouvelis – who is a district councillor – owns Poppies bookshop in Feilding and has had various careers in her lifetime, including owning an education consultancy firm, a scientist in a special care baby unit, and a biology teacher.

Mrs Kouvelis said she would be an "inclusive and collaborative" mayor.

"I'm very excited because it's such a great privilege," she said.

She would scale back her involvement in the bookshop, but said it would still give her an important point of contact with the community.

She said some "feminine" redecorating may be needed of the mayoral office, but this would come from her own pocket.

"We'll first be getting on with the challenges of the long-term plan and then sharing our vision with the rest of the community.

"An inclusive style of leadership is needed in today's environment.

"It's about giving voice to people and allowing contrary opinions to run side by side."

Mr Gibson, who is currently in Vietnam, said he looked forward to working with Mrs Kouvelis.

"I am extremely honoured by the continued support shown to me over the past three elections where I have contested the mayoralty," he said.

"Unfortunately, it was not third time lucky."

The result can be contested by a candidate but must be done within three days of the provisional tally.

The final result will be declared on March 12 and Mrs Kouvelis is to be sworn in on March 15.

Deputy electoral officer Janine Hawthorn said it was nerve-racking counting and recounting the results.

The voter turnout was 46 per cent. Mr Johnson said he was "a bit disappointed" by his level of support.

"Oh well, it's better than none isn't it," he said.

The Manawatu Standard