Northland's youngest councillor says his win in Saturday's election is a victory not for himself but for youth and for Māori.
Moko Tepania, 28, easily won a seat on the Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board — he was the top-polling candidate in the Kaikohe subdivision — and also claimed one of two Kaikohe-Hokianga seats on the Far North District Council, despite stiff competition among 12 candidates.
The result won't be confirmed until special votes are counted but Tepania said he was ''quietly confident'' the final tally would go his way.
If he holds onto the council seat, his community board role will go to the next-highest- polling candidate.
• Local Elections: Carter returned for third term as Far North mayor
• Premium - Young candidates urge Northland youth to make their voices heard
• Far North council results on a knife-edge
• Record choice for Far North voters in local body elections
''It's really exciting. I'm incredibly humbled that the community have shown their support for what I can bring to the council. Because I'm relatively new to Kaikohe – I'm from North Hokianga – to have that confidence is awesome,'' Tepania said.
''It's a little bit daunting that people have placed their trust in me but now the mahi begins, to make sure all the things people talked to me about on the campaign trail get achieved.''
Top of Tepania's to-do list is better engagement between the council and community.
''First and foremost will be making sure I'm seen and heard and available to the people who voted me in, so they have more of a feeling they're in touch with the council. A lot of people don't know what the council does or haven't had positive experiences with it in the past.''
Tepania, a teacher at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe, conceded he had a lot to learn but said he was looking forward to learning the ropes — ''and possibly burning a few of them if they're past their use-by date''.
Tepania said his win was a victory for young people and for Māori, who would now have ''a voice on the inside''.
He was pleased 35-year-old Rachel Smith, of Kerikeri, had also won a seat at the council table.
Smith, who has previously served on the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board, is a member of Local Government NZ's Young Elected Members Network.
Before Saturday's election just 6 per cent of councillors and community board members around the country were aged under 40.
Another young candidate, 28-year-old Ruth Heta from Kaeo, was unsuccessful. She gained a respectable 1221 votes in the council's hotly contested Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Ward, and 388 votes in the community board's Whangaroa subdivision.
The youngest candidate in Northland on Saturday was 18-year-old law student Rawhiti Erstich-Coles of Ōhaeawai, who gained 441 votes in the council's Kaikohe-Hokianga Ward.
Tepania earlier told the Advocate he initially decided to stand instead of moaning about the council.
As the campaign progressed and he realised how disengaged many people were from local government, he made it his mission to be a voice for the disengaged.
Unlike many higher-profile but less-successful candidates, who relied heavily on social media, Tepania's campaign was an old-fashioned one making use of personal networks, posters and weeks of door-knocking in areas usually ignored by council candidates.