Twenty-one portraits hang in the main entrance to the Hastings District Council's chambers and for the first time since 1886 a woman will feature among them - Hastings' new mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

Although the votes released yesterday were preliminary, with only about an estimated 500 left to be counted any changes will not significantly effect the result, which at 9913 gave Mrs Hazlehurst a near-5000 vote lead over the next closest candidate, councillor Bayden Barber.

Mrs Hazlehurst said she was "proud and honoured" to be elected Hastings mayor, after serving seven years as a Hastings/Havelock North councillor.

"I am truly humbled by the overwhelming support shown by our people in my last six months as acting mayor, and I would like to thank everyone who helped me get here," she said.

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"I would like to acknowledge my fellow mayoral candidates who ran good campaigns, and are also passionate about Hastings."

She said she would bring an attitude of putting people first, of supporting and listening to people.

"I want to ensure we have a council that will continue to work hard together on our vision, which is to create a better place for the people of the Hastings district."

She said her immediate priorities in the new role would be to address the critical need to improve the quality and sustainability of safe drinking water, improve the region's waterways, grow a strong economy and address the district's housing challenges.

"It saddens me to think we have people in emergency housing, on waiting lists to get a home, which is a basic right.

The council was already implementing its water strategy, getting safe water delivered from Hastings to Havelock North and across the network, and that would remain a priority, she said.

The phone was running hot yesterday afternoon upon news of her win and she said she had invited councillors, the council's executive team and her supporters to join her for a drink at Vidal to celebrate the occasion.

She said she had not yet considered what to do about the deputy mayoralty.

"People have been in their roles for a year now and we will get together as a council to discuss those roles and if there will be any changes."

Mr Barber secured 5101 votes in the preliminary count and said that while he was disappointed, the result was a clear mandate for Mrs Hazlehurst.

"I called her to congratulate her and I'm still keen to work hard for Hastings as a councillor and work with Sandra as the new mayor.

"There's no bad blood, we had a good conversation, it's just the way things go."

With 2897 votes, Mr Nixon's support base had dropped from previous mayoral bids, which he said surprised him.

"I expected the voter turnout to be low but I thought I had a bigger loyal base.

"I have no regrets though - I only stood because Lawrence Yule stood down and I felt it was an opportunity."

With the continuation of his role as a councillor, he said it would be back to business as usual, working with what he considered one of the best councils to work on in the three terms he had served.

Stuart Perry ran a campaign for change and said he was a little disappointed there wasn't one.

"There's obviously a lot of people that want to see a change in the way things are run such as getting chlorine out of the water, which was a key issue, but this is how democracy works."

He congratulated Mrs Hazlehurst and noted her substantial majority. At this point he said he had no intention to run in the next councillor byelection.

Waitawhara Tupaea was another newcomer to local government campaigning and said he was humbled by the 642 votes he had received to date.

"I actually thought I would get less votes - I thought people who knew me would vote for me but there are obviously people out there who my message resonated with."

He said he wanted to meet those people and planned to hold an event in the near future at a public space to have a conversation about changing society to be more kind and caring.

After receiving 82 votes when he stood to be MP for Tukituki in September this year, mayoral candidate Allister Tosh was pleased with the 319 votes he had received so far in this byelection, although not so certain about the overall result.

"I like Sandra as a person but I do not know that she was the best choice - I think Stuart Perry may have been better."

He said he had no plans to contest the next byelection, rather he thought he might see if he could get financial and corporate backing to take another shot in the general election in 2020.

Mrs Hazlehurst said the next byelection date had not been confirmed, but it was possible it would be held in February next year.