Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell has declared an election spend just $755 shy of the legal maximum.
The rich-lister and first-time Tauranga City Council candidate spent $54,244.57 on his campaign.
The limit, based on Tauranga's population, was $55,000.
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According to the Tauranga City Council electoral expenses returns made so far, it was the biggest spend of any candidate in the last five elections in Tauranga - including the 2015 and 2018 byelections.
The closest competition was Max Mason in 2016, who racked up $53,543.92 in bills for his mayoral and councillor campaigns, of which he declared that $37,937.72 was funded through donations.
Powell said he knew the limit for a mayoral campaign, and wanted to use what was available.
"I used it knowing that I was unknown to the wider Tauranga populous so needed to work hard on name recognition."
Powell, who grew up in Tauranga, was previously based in Auckland where he was chairman of the Government's Small Business Council and a member of the APEC Business Advisory Council.
His campaign expenses - most of which were made through Tuskany, the marketing agency that managed his campaign - included spending on professional photography, a website, hall hire and various forms of advertising including newspapers and Facebook.
Powell did not declare any donations to his campaign over $1500, and told the Bay of Plenty Times he did not take any donations at all, including of lesser amounts.
"I had none and purposely didn't ask for any."
Only a handful of candidates in any of the council races in the Western Bay of Plenty sub region declared any donations over the $1500 threshold.
The largest donation was $10,000 given by Don Brash to Margaret Murray-Benge.
She was unsuccessful in her bid for the Western Bay of Plenty District Council mayoralty but did win a seat on the council.
Murray Guy accepted a $5000 donation towards his unsuccessful mayoral and councillor campaign, on which he spent a total of $11,473.36.
Guy said the donor was not someone he knew prior to the campaign, but who made an offer of support after a discussion about the big money being spent on other campaigns.
"I accepted it graciously with no strings attached."
Dawn Kiddie, who stood successfully in the Mount Maunganui/Pāpāmoa ward, was donated $3000 from a supporter.
Kiddie said the donation was one of more than 20 contributions she received but was the only one over the threshold where it had to be declared.
Kiddie the cost of campaigning was one reason she initially did not plan to run for the council.
"It would have taken a lot out of our family budget to run for an election I may or may not win."
She changed her mind after being approached to run by four different groups. She spent $4499.09 on her campaign, according to her expense return.
Kiddie said she was generally too proud to accept cash, but did allow supporters to pay directly for advertising such as signs.
If it was required, she said she would have been happy to disclose all of the donations she accepted.
"It wouldn't worry me. People should be upfront and honest."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council candidate Jenny Hobbs declared a $2000 donation.
John Robson who spent $34,064.33 on his campaign - missing out on the mayoralty but being re-elected as a councillor - voluntarily declared on his return that he had no donations above or below the threshold.
He told the Bay of Plenty Times that, in his view, all donations and donors should have to be declared to prevent candidates simply collecting $1499 donations from various sources and not disclosing the funding to voters.
He also believed councils should take the lead of some states in Australia where donations from property developers were banned.
As of Friday, a whopping 23 candidates for Tauranga City Council had yet to submit their expense returns, despite the deadline having long passed. None of the stragglers were elected members.
The regional council was awaiting two and Western Bay of Plenty Council four.
Questions about what candidates have and have not listed on their returns should be directed to the electoral officer. Queries can be made anonymously.
Hey, big spenders
Tauranga City Council's top 5 expensive election campaigns of 2019*
1. Tenby Powell: $54,244.57
2. Greg Brownless: $35,869
3. John Robson: $34,064.33
4. Kelvin Clout: $22,794.25
5. Rick Curach: $11,965.25
*Note: A large number of candidates for this council have not yet handed in their expense returns.