New faces aplenty in local government shake-ups

By Edward Gay, James Ihaka

John Banks' victory in the Auckland City mayoral race may have been predicted by many, but not all the elections around the country today have followed expectations.

Here are the stories of how voters had their say today in North Shore, Waitakere, Manukau City and Christchurch.

Andrew Williams has pulled off a surprise victory on Auckland's North Shore, pulling nearly 2000 votes clear of the incumbent George Wood.

Mr Wood was trailing Mr Williams with 98 per cent of the votes counted.

Mr Williams said the media had predicted Mr Wood to be the winner but this has not been the case.

"This shows that what we were getting back from the public was quite different," Mr Williams said.

Mr Williams would not comment further to the Herald in protest at what he described as a lack of media coverage of the campaign.

George Wood has had three terms as mayor of North Shore City and was first elected to the position in 1998.

Mr Wood said his impending loss has been greeted with elation by his family after nine years at the helm.

"There will be no more mayoralty responsibilities. From that point of view, it's a bit difficult for me to be too upset," Mr Wood said.

He said the result is "interesting" but he always knew it was going to be close.

Mr Wood said the major issues were rates and the proposed commercial airport at the Whenuapai airbase.

The Whenuapai airbase has drawn wide-spread opposition on the Shore from residents who fear they could end up living under the flight paths.

"Whenuapai has been a pretty hard one to campaign against and deal with in a campaign situation," Mr Wood said.

He said some of the councillors who supported his policies on rates and Whenuapai have also lost their seats.

Mr Wood said if the promise of lower rates is delivered on then infrastructure will have to be scaled back.

"There will be a huge winding back in the spending programme. There's going to have to be a major re-allocation of projects," Mr Wood said.

As far as his future plans go, Mr Wood said he will have to "sit down and assess what to do."

* * *

Christchurch seems certain to have a new Mayor. With 98 percent of the results in, Bob Parker looks to be the clear winner.

Mr Parker gained just over 46,000 votes. His nearest rival, Megan Woods, is 15,000 votes behind.

* * *

Lawyer Len Brown has replaced the long serving Sir Barry Curtis as mayor of Manukau City.

Provisional results received this afternoon showed Mr Brown had 31,120 votes, well ahead of his nearest rival, former Olympian Dick Quax, on 17,204 votes.

Mr Brown Spoke to the Herald at the Flatbush School hall where a handful of supporters was beginning to swell to a large crowd and the champagne was starting to flow.

He said he received the call from Manukau electoral officer John Skelton just before 1pm.

"John called to say congratulations Mr Mayor. It's absolutely stone cold humbling to be elected mayor of Manukau City.

"It's amazing. I guess our real hope was the people would deliver a strong verdict and a strong mandate for their new mayor and I want to express my appreciation to them," Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown, who knocked on 35,000 doors during his four year campaign, said he had gained the confidence from various diverse communities of Manukau.

"My political and legal experience have been an important focus for people choosing a mayor who is capable and competent.

"I put to the people my personality which is someone people could relate to. The thing is that I'm really aware of is other people have used their reputations to get people to vote for me on their recommendation," Mr Brown said.

He said he was not phased by the low voter turn-out expected to be around 38 per cent of the total eligible vote.

"I'm ready for this job. I've been waiting for it since I've been a kid. I've been really strongly community focused from quite a young age and I've really wanted this job - this is my job," Mr Brown said.

In contrast Mr Quax was disappointed but said he had given Mr Brown a "really good fight".

"I'm looking forward to something different from council now and it will be interesting to see what that change brings and certainly we will hold him to his promises that he will not raise rates," Mr Quax said.

He conceded that a centre right leaning candidate would struggle in the Manukau electorate.

"I terms of central government, it's always going to be a strong centre left area and a centre right candidate is always going to find it difficult but we did a tremendous amount of work that I'm really proud of," Mr Quax said.

He said he had not made any decisions on his future yet.

Broadcaster Willie Jackson, who polled third in a recent Herald digipoll but was running a distant fourth behind former National list MP Arthur Anae as votes were still being counted, was bitterly disappointed in the low number of Maori and working class votes he was expecting.

"The sad part of that is the community that I represent don't turn out - it's always been a problem and it's a real disappointment."

Mr Jackson, who denies his shot at the mayoralty was a forerunner for another crack at Parliament, wished Mr Brown well in his new role.

"He has a record of representing our communities and he's longed for this moment.

"He deserves the job because he's done the ground work which I haven't done", he said.

* * *

Incumbent Bob Harvey is set to win the Waitakere mayoralty race again with a lead of over 4000 votes.

An emotional Mr Harvey told the Herald that over the last six weeks he has been subjected to a personal political campaign.

Mr Harvey was tearful when he described his love for Waitakere city and the quality of its residents.

"I'm the first to admit that it's been 15 absolutely fantastic years for the West," Mr Harvey said, referring to his first election win in 1992.

His nearest rival, John Tamihere, won 12,646 votes while Mr Harvey won 16,899.

Mr Harvey described Mr Tamihere as fierce opposition and said the campaign was "deeply personal and very aggressive, based on vengeance and utu".

"I refused to slag or bag them and I promised integrity and trust. His campaign against me worked for me," Mr Harvey said.

But Mr Tamihere said Mr Harvey should stop being a "sooky-bubba".

"Campaigns are personal because ego drives them. It wasn't as brutal as he made it out to be," Mr Tamihere said.

He said it was the first time that Mr Harvey had vigorous opposition.

"Westies are good people. They give it a good go," Mr Tamihere said.

He said the low turn-out is not a reflection of voter apathy but a form of participation in itself.

"They're not stupid. Most of them are enrolled. You can lead a horse to water but if it doesn't want to drink, it wont," Mr Tamihere said.

Mr Tamihere said he had no immediate plans for the future but the "world didn't end" with his loss.

"Like most Kiwis, I just went up the road and got a lotto ticket. I can't get worse luck today," he said.

He was gracious about the loss and said full credit had to be awarded to Mr Harvey and his team.

Mr Harvey said Al Gore winning the Nobel Prize this morning was a good omen.

"It was like a badge of honour, an endorsement for us. Sustainable cities and a sustainable world," Mr Harvey said.

* additional reporting by James Ihaka and by Newstalk ZB

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