By Alexandra Newlove
Tickets turned out not to be the ticket in Whangarei this election, with the new council dominated by independent and incumbent candidates, and a jubilant Sheryl Mai easily winning a second mayoral term.
The "overwhelmed, rapt and thrilled" Ms Mai romped in with 14,355 votes to Go-Whangarei ticket leader David Blackley's 5,095.
Ms Mai said the result showed the council was heading in the right direction.
Three new faces would join the 14-member Whangarei District Council, according to preliminary results, to be officially confirmed later this week.
The returning mayor said she looked forward to seeing what skills the newbies brought to the table.
"I'm over the moon, and the stars, and Mars and Pluto, all those planets," Ms Mai said.
"I really hoped the community would recognise that my leadership style was right for the time ... I worked damn hard in the last three years connecting with the community and they've shown their appreciation for that."
But while the incumbent was leaping around the galaxy, businessman rival Mr Blackley was putting together a gracious statement conceding defeat.
He had hoped his 13-member Go-Whangarei ticket would gain a majority around the council table, though just two candidates, returning 2007 councillor Vince Cocurullo (Okara) and fresh face Jayne Golightly (Denby), were successful.
Mr Blackley said the pair would continue to carry the torch and he "wholeheartedly" congratulated the successful 14.
"I wish them all the very best in what will be three very decisive years for Whangarei and Northland," he said.
Also disappointed was the two-man TogetherTahi ticket comprising Ash Holwell and Matt Keene. The pair missed out after running a colourful and youth-centric campaign on a next-to-nothing budget which dominated social media.
Mr Holwell said the result was "gutting" but that he was looking forward to getting back into his many other community projects. "I am immensely proud to have been part of a campaign that refused to compromise on our belief in an inclusive politics that isn't afraid to care about the people it is serving," he said.
Back again for a second or subsequent term are Shelley Deeming, Phil Halse, Tricia Cutforth, Greg Martin, Sharon Morgan, Stuart Bell, Sue Glen, Cherry Hermon, Crichton Christie and Greg Innes.
Mr Innes won against Mr Blackley in the Whangarei Heads ward and described the result as "reaffirming".
Newbie Anna Murphy, 38, would become the youngest councillor, replacing Susy Bretherton in the Hikurangi-Coastal Ward. Incumbent Ms Bretherton jumped the Mai ship and joined Go-Whangarei, a move which did not pay off on polling day.
Ms Murphy said she was "very happy and quite surprised" and looked to bring her environmental expertise to the table, as well as being a representative for those with young families.
As well as Ms Bretherton, WDC would lose councillors Brian McLachlan and John Williamson. The new council would comprise eight women and six men, tipping last term's equal gender split.