A divided Hastings District council will be returning to chambers this term, with the majority re-elected councillors having already formed their allegiance.
The 2019 local body elections came to an end on Saturday, signalling the start of a full term as mayor for incumbent Sandra Hazlehurst, and dashing the mayoral hopes of her challenger, Damon Harvey.
Just three new faces will join them at the council table, with the 14 remaining seats filled with returning councillors, including Hastings-Havelock North ward councillor Harvey.
It may also see the return of the mayor's "tight five". It first came about in Lawrence Yule's time and has the nickname because of their unwavering support for the mayor.
Hazlehurst became the district's first female mayor in the 2017 byelection after long-standing mayor Lawrence Yule stood down to successfully contest the Tukituki electorate as MP.
Then, she beat five opponents, including second-placed Bayden Barber by 4,902 votes, with 10,154. This time around, the margin was smaller with little more than 2700, putting her at 11,971. Harvey won 9,207.
Hazlehurst was in the middle of a paddock taking down some of her hoardings, when council chief executive, Nigel Bickle phoned to tell her the "good news".
She said she felt "honoured and privileged" to have been re-elected.
"I am truly humbled by the support I have had from our community over my time as mayor and during this campaign. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me to return to this role where I can serve our District."
She acknowledged Harvey and congratulated the other successful candidates.
Hazlehurst said the past two years had been one of "rebuilding and coming together", particularly in the wake of the Havelock North gastro outbreak.
"It hasn't been straightforward but now we're in a place to rebuild together."
This year's election saw the two mayoral candidates jostle over some of the biggest issues facing the district namely water.
It heated up in the last few weeks when the need for transparency within the council was thrust into the spotlight with a proposal of a multi-million dollar building to "tell the story of water".
When asked how she felt about the last few weeks, she jokingly replied: "tired".
"We need to move forward and we need to make sure we are delivering the best we possibly can. We are here to represent the people, not ourselves and that is our key message.
"I look forward to rebuilding our team and making sure that everyone is strong and everyone is committed to doing the best for their community," Hazlehurst said.
Her main priorities are to complete the new safe drinking water infrastructure and support the region's growing economy.
"But at the same time intensify our focus on our environment and its sustainability; implement along with our partners, our plans to provide homes for our people; empower and enable our young people to gain skills so they can secure meaningful employment; bring alive our city with our 'Hastings Alive Plan'," she added.
"Our region's leaders are working closely together on shared visions and at the same time developing collaborative plans to strengthen and improve the region's productivity and economic resilience as well as lifting the social wellbeing of our people."
Hastings born and bred, Harvey was the highest-polling new councillor in the 2016 local body elections. At the time of his announcement, Harvey said it was "leadership indecisiveness" which led him to stand as Mayor this time around.
He took to Facebook on Saturday to share his "disappointment" at the result but congratulated "those that have been successful, including Sandra".
"Disappointing for me, my family and friends and everyone that supported me. I would like to thank you all for your support and confidence in me to be your mayor.
"It wasn't a total loss as I did get reappointed as a councillor so that's a bit of a consolation," he added.
The results were posted to the Hastings District Council's website just after 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon and are based upon the counting of approximately 95 per cent of the returned votes.
Voter return was 40.99 per cent, being 22,580 votes - well down on the 48.6 per cent in 2016, 47.8 per cent in 2013 and 44.3 per cent in 2010.
Votes in transit to the processing centre and special votes are yet to be counted.
In the Hastings-Havelock North Ward all eight councillors, including Harvey were re-elected.
Elected in the 2018 by-election, Eileen Lawson won 8,746 votes this time around.
She was followed by Harvey, with 8,397 votes. Former Frimley school principal, Malcolm Dixon, now entering his third term as councillor, received 7,715 votes, followed by council stalwart, Kevin Watkins, with 7,545 votes.
One-term Councillors; Bayden Barber and Geraldine Travers received 7,503 and 7,376 votes respectively.
Wendy Schollum came into the council in a by-election contest where she was head and shoulders above a mediocre bunch had little to be desired this time around, with 6,909. Simon Nixon came in eighth with 6,193.
Four candidates hoping, but not quite managing to pip them at the post were Rizwaana Latif, Rebecca Burns, Sayeed Ahmed and Rion Roben.
The Heretaunga ward saw one seat open this year, after Rod Heaps, who was first elected in 2004, stood down.
One term councillor, Ann Redstone has been re-elected, with 2,162, votes. She beat her 2016 result by 87 votes.
Newcomer Alwyn Corban will work alongside her, having received 1,607 votes.
Of note was Jason Whaitiri who, in 2016 came just four votes behind Redstone. However, this year, he polled last 15 behind Keith Newman.
Surprisingly, 18-year-old Oliver Taylor came third, missing out, however, by a considerable margin.
This time round there was a contest in the Mohaka ward, with current Deputy Mayor, Tania Kerr, who has run unopposed previously, returned about 50 per cent more votes than her rival, Stuart Perry.
Taking on the Kahuranaki Ward by default from George Lyons, who vacated the seat after two terms is Waimarama farmer and Hastings butchery owner, Sophie Sears.
In the Flaxmere ward, Labour-backed candidate, Peleti Oli came out on top with 1,046 votes. Long-time Flaxmere ward councillor, Henare O'Keefe also got in, just beating running mate Jacoby Poulain.
The official results are due to be confirmed on October 19, 2019.