The leadership of Tauranga has been thrown wide open by Mayor Stuart Crosby's decision not to seek a fifth term as mayor, with four contenders already announcing they want the top job.
Mr Crosby yesterday ended speculation by saying he intended standing for one of the four Tauranga seats on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
A ring-around by the Bay of Plenty Times revealed that Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout, Councillor John Robson, former councillor Murray Guy and Trustpower's community relations manager Graeme Purches would all be seeking the mayoralty.
Mr Crosby, who earlier hinted he might stay on to help guide the establishment of a combined Tauranga and Western Bay council, said amalgamation was now "definitely not on the agenda for the next few years."
He said Auckland's super council had put a lot of people off, with Northland, Wellington and Hawke's Bay all voting against amalgamations. The Government was encouraging the voluntary integration of core services across council boundaries, with roading and water supplies first off the rank in the Western Bay.
Mr Crosby said it would be good for Tauranga to have a fresh face as mayor so he could offer his experience to the regional council, noting: "So many issues are becoming more regional."
Mr Clout, who came within 506 votes of beating Mr Crosby in the 2013 elections, said he will stand for the mayoralty.
"Tauranga is in a pretty exciting phase of its development," Mr Clout said, adding he had not decided whether to go for a seat on the council as well.
Mr Robson will also run for the council, saying his decision had been validated by the two years spent as a successful councillor.
Mr Purches said he will stand for an at-large seat on the council and the mayoralty. When he entered into the arrangement with Trustpower for a five-year transition into retirement on June 1, it was timed to allow him to stand for the council.
"It has given me a fair bit of time to think about it and look at how things could be done better," Mr Purches said.
Mr Guy also intended to go for both the mayoralty and a seat on the council. The former four-term councillor, who was part of the 2013 election's big clean-out said the loss had initially dented his ego but he had come to recognise it as a good thing.
"It has been helpful to be outside the tent for three years ... you see things as the community sees it."
The rest of the councillors have all signalled their intention to seek re-election, with Steve Morris and Bev Edlin not discounting that they might run for mayor.
"Let's just wait to see what happens when the cards are being played," Dr Edlin said. "We need a visionary, someone who can drive the city forward."
Mr Morris said he would have a think about the mayoralty, saying he did not want to be one of those people who stood for mayor just to raise their profile, knowing they had no hope of winning.
A mayoral candidate in 2013, Richard Moore had not made up his mind, saying it would depend on who put their hand up and whether he could make a difference to the city other than as a commentator.
"I am not liking the secrecy of the council. A lot of them were elected to make things more transparent and make the council more open, but it is probably less transparent than three years ago," he said.