Whanganui's district council was sworn in on Wednesday and its leader, mayor Hamish McDouall, made it patently clear he expects councillors to play the ball and not the man.

In his inaugural address to the council's first meeting since the elections Mr McDouall said the voter turnout in Whanganui proved "the beacon of democracy" burned brighest here.

But he said the result also signalled the community wanted change on the council, voting in a mix of youth, business and financial acumen, infrastructure nous, and the experience and passion of five returning councillors.

"Some people were concerned about party politics entering local government. Some were concerned about the negativity of the election campaign bleeding over into the new era of council.

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"But I'm least concerned with that because the 12 people alongside me all have qualities. Not a single one of them wants to see Whanganui fail or go backwards. It's forward we are heading and we're going to get there together."

Mr McDouall told the meeting, held in the Concert Chamber, the voters gave a clear message to have "seven fresh pairs of eyes on the council" especially when it came to looking at the multi-million dollar wastewater plant rebuild. He said two days of workshops have been scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday for council to start that process.

"There is a clear mandate given to council make the plant as affordable as we're able to within the terms of our (resource) consent."

He said the rebuild won't be the only issue facing council in the next three years because he and the successful councillors all campaigned for economic development: "We've been given a clear mandate to grow business and bring business here."

Mr McDouall said as mayor he had some unilateral power and key among those would be to advocate strongly for Whanganui around the country. He said the community needed everyone to be ambassadors for the city and district and council would take a lead in getting that message across.

"As mayor I will demand respectful communication from councillors, whether that's councillor to councillor or councillor to staff or the general public, in formal meetings, by email or on social media."

Then Mr McDouall named Councillor Jenny Duncan as his deputy, an appointed that was not challenged and one greeted with prolonged applause from the Concert Chamber audience.

"Whanganui voted for us not to rip and tear, not play power games, nor divide or undermine, not to rush to media. We have a clear mandate to work together positively for Whanganui. That's why we're here.

An apology was received from new councillor Murray Cleveland.

The new council will hold two full meetings between now and the end of this year - on November 8 and December 6.