Incumbent John Carter has been returned for a third term as Far North Mayor after a record 11-way contest for the district's top job.

The former Northland MP was well ahead of his rivals with 5018 votes when 95 per cent of the ballots had been counted just after 3pm today.

In second place was his current deputy Tania McInnes, with 3223 votes, and third was outspoken transparency campaigner Dave ''Bear'' Hookway with 2931 votes.

McInnes and Hookway are both current councillors who stood only for the mayoralty, so they won't be back when a new Far North District Council convenes later this month.

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Dave Hookway, seen here at a public meeting early in the campaign, placed third in the mayoral race. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Dave Hookway, seen here at a public meeting early in the campaign, placed third in the mayoral race. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Carter said he was ''hugely grateful and honoured'' to be returned for what he said was definitely his last term.

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He had chosen to stand again because the chief executive was partway through significant changes to the council's operational arm, and because he wanted to make sure a number of major PGF-funded infrastructure projects were ''well and truly in place'' before he gave up the reins.

He described the newly elected councillors as ''good, serious, steady people''.

''I'm sure we can build a good team to work together for the benefit of the community,'' he said.

There were lessons to be taken from the campaign, however, which would require everyone — staff and elected members — to reflect on what could be done better, Carter said.

Tania McInnes placed second in the mayoral race and won't be at the table when the new council convenes. Photo / supplied
Tania McInnes placed second in the mayoral race and won't be at the table when the new council convenes. Photo / supplied

The results so far don't include last-minute votes cast until noon today. Those votes will be included when the preliminary results are published tomorrow morning.

The final results, including special votes, won't be known until Thursday at the earliest.

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According to the progress results, the winning council candidates are Ann Court, Kelly Stratford, Rachel Smith and David Clendon (Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Ward), John Vujcich and Moko Tepania (Kaikohe-Hokianga Ward), and Felicity Foy, Mate Radich and David Collard in the Te Hiku Ward.

Some results, however, are close and may yet change once the final numbers are in. Tepania, for example, is at this point just 16 votes ahead of long-time councillor Sally Macauley.

The election of Rachel Smith and Moko Tepania as councillors could mean two byelections will be required, because both have also won community board seats.

The other results in the mayoral race are Monty Knight (2033 votes), Jay Hepi (1024), Peter Gill (846), Harko Brown (665), John Levers (482), JT Tahana (302), John Bassett (255) and Kuini Matene (197).