Tauranga mayor-elect Tenby Powell says the voters have spoken: "It's time for the old guard to let go".

In a stunning upset, the businessman has been elected mayor of the city where he grew up, despite having only moved back from Auckland in May.

Progress results show Powell, 59, with a 4000-vote lead over incumbent mayor Greg Brownless, with 95 per cent of votes counted.

Tenby Powell's election party at Classic Flyers today. Photo / George Novak
Tenby Powell's election party at Classic Flyers today. Photo / George Novak

Of the incumbent councillors who ran for election, Kelvin Clout, Steve Morris, Larry Baldock, Terry Molloy and John Robson have been re-elected, with long-serving councillors Rick Curach and Bill Grainger missing the mark.

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The cohort of new councillors is Heidi Hughes, Dawn Kiddie, Andrew Hollis, Tina Salisbury and Jako Abrie.

Powell is celebrating his victory with supporters at Classic Flyers. He was among the first to arrive and has been greeting guests including Tauranga-based Labour list MP Jan Tinetti.

She said the results showed voters "obviously wanted to see change".

"It's a good thing. It will be exciting times for the next few years."

In a speech to supporters, Powell said he would be mayor for no more six years.

"This job is not a career, it's a service."

He said he wanted the council to enable innovation and entrepreneurship.

"I have said for years this city is the epicentre for entrepreneurship and innovation.

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"Something special is happening here.

"I truly believe the council should get out if the way."

Earlier, Powell, an Honorary Colonel in the New Zealand Army, told the Bay of Plenty Times he was "thrilled" with the win.

He said he was at home in Mount Maunganui with his wife, entrepreneur Sharon Hunter, son and daughter, and his mother digesting the news that came in a call from council chief executive Marty Grenfell.

Tenby Powell's election party at Classic Flyers today. Photo / George Novak
Tenby Powell's election party at Classic Flyers today. Photo / George Novak

"I look forward to doing what I said I would do, which is bring Tauranga the proven leadership it deserves."

Powell said he hoped to choose a female deputy mayor.

He credited his win to a strong digital media strategy, more than 500 meetings with people in the community, his campaign manager Sally Cooke and her "incredible team" at Tuskany and "a bit of luck along the way".

Powell said he could not see his high-flying wife taking on a traditional "first lady" type role, and he would be "super embarrassed" if anyone called him "your worship".

"It's just not us."

Tenby Powell and wife Sharon Hunter in 2014. Photo / File
Tenby Powell and wife Sharon Hunter in 2014. Photo / File

He said he was from a blue-collared background.

"I am equally comfortable sipping champagne with world leaders as I am sitting on a crate having a beer with the lads in a workshop."

He said that, after serving some final commitments, he would resign his Government positions, including as a New Zealand representative on the Apec Business Advisory Council and the chairman of the Government's Small Business Development Group.

He planned to attend the next Apec summit in San Diego in November, where he looked forward to advocating for Tauranga.

The results showed the city wanted some change, he said.

Powell said it was good to see some "wise old heads" re-elected - particularly Baldock and Molloy - as well as some new faces.

He said his dream for his mayoralty was to develop and mentor the next generation of leaders, now in their 30s and 40s, and one day hand a highly-functioning council over to them.

He has relisted the couple's designer family home on Auckland's waterfront.

Powell told NZME he expected it would go for around $20m. He had yet to buy in the Bay of Plenty.

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