Hardaker strolls back, six new councillors
Julie Hardaker has become the first Hamilton mayor re-elected to office by voters in almost two decades, defeating hopeful Ewan Wilson by 2900 votes.
Preliminary results put Ms Hardaker back in charge, receiving 15,575 votes to beat Mr Wilson on 12,681.
Special votes have yet to be counted, but changes look unlikely.
Ms Hardaker has also been handed what looks a sympathetic council, bristling with six new councillors, four of them elected on platforms of fiscal discipline that will sit easily alongside Ms Hardaker's own politics.
Former ACT party national president and councillor Garry Mallett and his ticket-mate Karina Green, city finance company boss Andrew King, and accountant Rob Pascoe will join city council ethnic development officer Philip Yeung and veteran former traffic cop Leo Tooman as new members of the council.
All four incumbent councillors were elected in the city's West ward - Mr Wilson, Martin Gallagher, Angela O'Leary and Dave Macpherson. East ward voters returned Gordon Chesterman and Margaret Forsyth.
Roger Hennebry was the only incumbent standing again who did not return.
Hamilton also voted overwhelmingly for fluoridation in a non-binding referendum, with 68 per cent of valid votes in support and 32 per cent against. However, the city has balked at using single transferable voting (STV) for the next two elections, 70 per cent wanting first-past-the-post.
Ms Hardaker learned soon after 1pm on Saturday that she had been returned to office, the first Hamilton mayor re-elected since Margaret Evans in 1995.
"It's a much bigger margin than last time. I'm not surprised. All the talk in the community everywhere I was going, was [that] people were supportive of what I've done for the city."
Ms Hardaker said she had inherited the council at an "all time low" and work to turn around its fortunes had been the difference.
"Since then I've worked really hard, and council has really turned the city around in terms of the issues it was facing back then, and I think voters recognised that.
"I think the new councillors are great, there's a mix of really good skills," she said.
"What's more important is it's an opportunity with six new councillors for a completely new culture. That's what this really delivers."
While she has yet to formally offer, Ms Hardaker indicated current deputy mayor Gordon Chesterman would again be her pick for the role.
Mr Wilson said he was happy with his campaign and was "thrilled" to be returned for the West ward, polling second-highest behind Martin Gallagher.
Reflecting on the reasons he lost, Mr Wilson pointed to his past.
"I have to face the fact opponents will always seek to relitigate a mistake from 18 years ago," he said.
"I congratulate the mayor on her re-election and on a race well run. While this has been an extremely hard-fought campaign I genuinely look forward to working with Julie as part of the new council."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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