Southern mayors will hit the ground running, after an election dominated by voter apathy and few changes to the status quo.
Of all the Southland councils and community boards, only the Bluff Community Board has recorded a significant number of changes - all bar one sitting member have been ousted.
Long-serving Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt was returned in a landslide victory which saw him garner nearly two and a half times as many votes as his closest opponent, Lindsay Dow. Third in the mayoral race was Kevin Middleton.
Mr Shadbolt said he was delighted with his win.
The race for Southland District mayor was much more closely contested - just 180 votes separated winner, council newcomer Gary Tong (3371) and sitting councillor Paul Duffy (3191). Third in the race was John Douglas, who secured 2330.
It was Mr Tong's appointment as retiring mayor Frana Cardno's replacement which was perhaps the surprise of the weekend.
Many, including Mrs Cardno, had predicted it would be either Mr Duffy or Mr Douglas who took out the mayoralty, and while Mr Tong said he had felt confident of his chances, he conceded he had a lot to learn.
Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts elected to retain mayors Vanessa van Uden and Tony Lepper by significant margins.
However, both districts have seen significant change on their councils with at least half their councillors coming to the table for the first time.
A mood for change in Wanaka has meant deputy mayor Lyal Cocks is the only returning councillor from the area.
It was a different scenario elsewhere in the south though, with only a handful of new faces on most southern councils.
The Gore District Council, where mayor Tracy Hicks stood unopposed, will have two new faces, while the Invercargill City Council will have three new faces - however one of them is former councillor Peter Kett.
As well as a new mayor, the Southland District Council will also have three new faces.
Only one new face will join Southland's regional council, Environment Southland.
Another shock result was the removal of long-standing Invercargill Licensing Trust member Neville Cook, who lost his seat after entertainer Suzanne Prentice was returned to the board. Prentice was the second highest polling candidate.
While successful candidates spent the night celebrating, for council returning officers the low voter return was a disappointment.
All southern councils reported low returns, a result mayors and councillors agreed needed to change.
Less than half the eligible voters in Invercargill chose to have their say, while 46 per cent of voters in the Southland District cast votes.
Gore recorded its lowest ever voter return, on 41.5 per cent.
Residents blamed the apathy squarely on the candidates and said few had been actively campaigning for votes.
However, despite the low returns, elected officials spoken to said they were all keen to get their new councils started and were looking forward to addressing the issues facing the southern regions, including roading, economic development, tourism ventures and unemployment.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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