Masterton voters returned Bob Francis to the mayoralty for a seventh term on Saturday, making him the longest-serving provincial mayor in New Zealand.

Although Mr Francis' majority was cut back to a little over 600 votes from 3468 in 2001, he was facing three challenges this time, all from sitting councillors and had declared his hand over seeking the Labour Party nomination for Wairarapa at next year's general election.

Mr Francis' win makes him the longest-serving provincial mayor after Wanganui incumbent Chas Poynter was skittled.

Voter turn-out in Wairarapa looks to have been the highest in New Zealand.


Despite topping the poll, Carterton's voter returns were down on 2001 by 8 percent.

On election night Carterton's mayor, Martin Tankersley, was beaten by colourful eccentric Gary McPhee.

The motorcycling mayor-elect lives in a house truck and confesses to not enjoying meetings or committees.

He polled 1387 votes to incumbent Mr Tankersley's 1189. The third mayoral candidate, Michael Blundell, was well back on 582.

Mr McPhee made headlines several years ago when he brandished a sword in a Carterton hotel.

He said yesterday that his mission as mayor was to make Carterton a safer place.

Mr Tankersley has been mayor for a term and a half. He was first elected in a byelection four years ago when Georgina Beyer stood down.

There was only one other change around the council table, with new councillor Brian Poulsen getting the nod in the urban ward.

Featherston farmer Adrienne Staples becomes the first woman mayor of South Wairarapa district.

Mrs Staples said she would be coming to the job "totally out of left field" having never been a councillor.

She has had some low-key involvement in local politics as chairman of the Featherston Community Board, but this is a big step for her.

She finished 352 votes ahead of her nearest rival, Garrick Emms, who had run former mayor John Read close in 2001, with Mike Gray on 869 and Kevin Lyford on 696.