Gavin Benney reckons it wasn't his byelection campaign that saw him voted in as a Whangarei District councillor - it was the 30-odd years he'd worked in the community.

Mr Benney, who worked as a police officer at Hikurangi for more than 30 years and has been involved in the sports scene in Whangarei for even longer, was yesterday elected as a Whangarei District councillor in the Denby Ward byelection.

Voting closed at noon yesterday and preliminary results indicate that Mr Benney has been elected with 841 votes, well ahead of Matt Keene, who was second with 635 votes. There were 13 candidates for the ward, down from an initial 17 after nominations closed on October 10.

Read more: Gavin Benney - Denby byelection profile

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Mr Benney said he saw the byelection campaign not as a contest, but as a job interview and every meeting he went to and every person he met and spoke to during the campaign — and previously — was part of that job interview.

''But I don't think really that anything I did while campaigning got me the job, it was what I did previously over 30-odd years in the community.

''My time as a police officer and being involved in the sports scene up here - and I'm still involved, doing rugby coaching and helping cleaning up the sidelines [of abuse at referees] at Kensington Park - they were all part of the interview process for me.''

He said he would spend the next two years really getting to know the council system and had some short-term and long-term goals.

''Cleaning up our roadsides for a start. I have a real beef over the disgusting state of the sides of the roads in Whangarei - plastic, bottles, cans, plastic bags, rubbish - if we want to attract more tourists, and that's another goal, we need to clean them up,'' he said.

''We need more tourists in Whangarei and I'd like to get the cruise ships to stop in
Whangarei rather than the Bay of Islands. We need something in Whangarei to get more tourists to stop here rather than bypass us to head north - and I'm a supporter of the Hundertwasser project.''

Mr Benney said he'd like to get more investment in the CBD so it's a better place to work and visit, and he'd push for two hours' free parking within the entire CBD.

Geoff Abbott received 267 votes; Kathryn Darroch, 166; Robert Diamond, 249; Mike Henwood, 56; Joby Hopa, 309; Chris Leitch, 552; Huhana Lyndon, 323; Kevin Newton, 12; Hayward Norman, 126; Des Wallace, 489; and Merv Williams, 489.

Initial candidates Greg Shipton, Vanessa Wilson and Yvette Poingdestre pulled out of the race, but their withdrawals came too late to have their names removed from the ballot papers. They got 38, 171 and 11 votes respectively. The final result remains unconfirmed until the Electoral Officer has publicly declared the result, which is expected to be on Wednesday, December 13.

The byelection, at a cost of about $35,000, was called for the Denby Ward when councillor Jayne Golightly resigned in September after being informed she was not a New Zealand citizen.

Altogether 32.04 per cent or 4529 of the 14,135 eligible electors voted. Thirteen informal votes and eight blank votes were received.