9 Oct 2016

Local elections: Steady as she goes in the South

12:12 pm on 9 October 2016

Sitting mayors in the main South Island centres have been returned to office - some with larger majorities than before.

Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and Nelson voted to keep their mayors, and the only new faces are in Queenstown and Blenheim where the incumbents retired.

Re-elected mayors, from left, Lianne Dalziel, Dave Cull and Tim Shadbolt.

Re-elected mayors, from left, Lianne Dalziel, Dave Cull and Tim Shadbolt. Photo: RNZ

Lianne Dalziel was given a second term in Christchurch in a landslide victory, picking up 73,001 votes, while her nearest rival, the veteran activist John Minto could only manage 12,533.

Ms Dalziel says the result gives her the mandate she needs to continue, though she is promising this term to give more decision-making power back to the community.

New Zealand's most successful ever mayor, Tim Shadbolt, was returned for a record eighth term in Invercargill.

Despite his strongest challenge in many years he pulled 54 percent of the vote, showing he still has the public's backing, even if some have argued his ideas and energy appear on the wane.

In Dunedin, Dave Cull was returned to office for a third-term, beating 10 challengers.

Sitting councillor Lee Vandervis, who has run for mayor twice before, came second, and Barry Timmings was third.

Mr Cull's margin is not yet clear, because the vote was one of the few to run under the more complex STV preferential voting system and the count has not yet been released.

Nelson's Rachel Reese has been re-elected for a second term, winning twice as many votes as her nearest rival, Pete Rainey.

New faces

There were few surprises among new mayors either.

In Queenstown, the high-profile businessman Jim Boult has succeeded retiring mayor Vanessa van Uden.

Queenstown mayor, Jim Boult

Queenstown's Jim Boult gained more than 50 percent of the vote. Photo: Supplied

Mr Boult got a clear mandate with more than 50 percent of the vote.

He had appeared the favourite from the start, though he had laid a complaint with police alleging a dirty tricks campaign against him.

In Blenheim, a secret recording controversy failed to derail the campaign of John Leggett, who won the mayoralty comfortably.

Mr Leggett, whose closed-door comments about the financially troubled ASB Theatre was among material leaked to blogger Cameron Slater, had said it was part of an attack on his campaign.

In some smaller centres, specifically local issues dominated, causing upsets.

Ashburton's on-again-off-again sale of water rights to a bottling company looks to have cost Angus McKay the district's mayoralty.

Councillor and cinema owner Donna Favel has sent Mr McKay packing by a margin of close to 1400 votes.

The battle lines are drawn over water too in the Canterbury regional council, Environment Canterbury, which held its first elections since the board was sacked by the Government in 2009.

Of the seven regional councillors chosen, the four city councillors are all candidates wanting to limit intensive dairy farming and clean up waterways.

But the three rural wards have voted in two dairy farmers and the former head of an irrigation company.

However, not all the positions are being elected. Four will be appointed by the government, and are due to be announced within the next month, and two will be Ngāi Tahu appointees.