Re-elected Auckland Mayor Len Brown is promising to tighten the belt in his second term, starting with a pay cut for the new chief executive.
Mr Brown has won another mandate to lead the Super City, although the 107,672 votes that went to his right-wing rival, political novice John Palino, reflected widespread concern about the mayor's financial performance.
Mr Brown won the contest with 162,675 votes, or 46.6 per cent of the vote - about the same level of support he received in 2010 to beat Auckland City Mayor John Banks.
But the turnout in Auckland, just 34 per cent, was the worst on record and the Government is to look at fast-tracking plans for electronic voting.
Yesterday, Mr Brown said "messages" about debt and spending were very clear and he planned to address them when he presents the first cut of next year's budget to councillors on November 17.
One issue Mr Brown has promised action on is pay for senior staff - 1500 of whom earn more than $100,000 and 113 more than $200,000.
During the election, he defended salaries of nearly $800,00 for council chief executive Doug McKay and Watercare chief Mark Ford, saying, "You have got to meet the market."
Now he is saying there will be "downward movement" on the city CEO's salary when the council appoints a new one before Christmas.
He is also signalling an end to big pay increases after the council-controlled Watercare board approved a 10 per cent pay rise for Mr Ford when the likes of librarians and street cleaners got 1.7 per cent.
The mayor has vowed to back the living wage for city staff if a review finds it is feasible and affordable.
His other priorities include making enough progress, including an elusive funding package, to start the $2.86 billion city rail link by 2016, and addressing affordable housing in the red-hot Auckland property market.
Mr Palino, who plans to marry, start a family, get a dog and start a new business, was disappointed at the loss. "Len Brown better stay on his toes, because I will be sticking around and I am definitely ready to run again next time."
Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain is to look at fast-tracking electronic voting. The low turnout nationwide of about 40 per cent has again raised the topic of whether New Zealand should follow Australia's lead and make voting compulsory - an idea local body officials will now consider, although there is little support for it.
The drop was mainly driven by the cities - turnout in Dunedin fell from 52 per cent to 42 and in Christchurch from 50 to 41. additional reporting:
Claire Trevett, Lincoln Tan