Young people and women have finally started to break into local councils — with a number taking out the top seat and donning the mayoral chains.
Of the 63 local councils which have declared results so far, 25 per cent of the mayors are women — up from 19 per cent last time — and five of the 63 mayors are aged under 40.
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One of them, new Hutt mayor Campbell Barry, is one of the youngest mayors ever elected in New Zealand, at just 28.
Barry said age would not affect his ability to lead the council, as he already has six years' experience as a councillor under his belt.
"At the end of the day, people have voted for change and a new approach," he said.
Labour-aligned Barry ousted conservative sitting mayor Ray Wallace.
Political scientist Bryce Edwards said local councillors had traditionally been old, white and male, but this year has seen "a diversity burst".
"The election has been a modernising one — throughout the country the results appear to have produced a re-balancing of the councils and the mayoralties, with voters choosing to elect more women and youth than ever before," he said.
"It does seem to be the zeitgeist — people are wanting to see greater change in our local representatives."
Two-fifths of the 63 councils elected so far have elected new mayors — seven women and 18 men.
The biggest upset seems likely to be in Wellington, where Sir Peter Jackson-backed councillor Andy Foster is 715 votes ahead of Labour incumbent Justin Lester, with 10 per cent of the votes yet to be counted.
Foster has made two unsuccessful bids for Wellington's mayoralty before this election.
"This is the first time I've had the resource come behind me. Clearly I'm seen as the person who represented a chance for change and getting things done and hopefully that carries through to the finish line," he told the Herald.
A key issue for Foster has been the controversial housing development proposed for Shelly Bay on the Miramar Peninsula — which both Jackson and Foster strongly oppose.
Whangārei's mayor Sheryl Mai said she was "ecstatic"to be elected for her third term in office — saying it was clear from the results that, while most people were happy with the direction the council was taking, many were not.
"My challenge now is to meet the needs of those people more than we have been."
"But this is a big vote of confidence and support for the direction we are heading in. We are definitely on a roll in the district and we have some exciting things ahead of us. Now I've got to bring together the team to make it all happen."
Hastings' Sandra Hazlehurst was also re-elected after becoming mayor in 2017 when Lawrence Yule stood down to run for Parliament forcing a byelection.
"I'm incredibly proud and honoured actually that our people have confidence in me," she said.
In Dunedin, Aaron Hawkins became what Edwards said may be the first official Green Party candidate to win the mayoralty of a major city, although other Green supporters have won other mayoral contests under other banners.
Hamilton's new mayor Paula Southgate, who unsuccessfully moved a motion to declare a climate emergency in the city recently, beat incumbent Andrew King.
Steve Chadwick was elected for a third term as mayor of the Rotorua district which she described as an enormous relief.
"We hold the majority too and that's important. It's not a bloc, it's those that see we've got to keep this district moving."
In Tauranga, businessman Tenby Powell convincingly defeated incumbent Greg Brownless. Speaking afterwards, he said 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.
In a speech to supporters, Powell said he would be mayor for no more than six years.
"This job is not a career, it's a service.
"I have said for years this city is the epicentre for entrepreneurship and innovation.
"Something special is happening here. I truly believe the council should get out of the way."
But 38 of the country's 63 districts that have declared so far re-elected sitting mayors, including Liane Dalziel in Christchurch and Sir Tim Shadbolt, who won a record eleventh term as mayor, ninth in Invercargill, to become the current longest-serving mayor of any New Zealand city.
Auckland Council's political makeup was largely unchanged. Mayor Phil Goff saw off a challenge from John Tamihere by 156,000 votes to 70,000. His supporters lost one seat in the Whau ward, but gained one in Waitematā and Gulf.
"I think we would have got strong support from across Auckland and the strong diversity of the city," he said from his election event at the Kingslander pub.
"I'm proud of the foundations we have laid. My priorities are to continue to build infrastructure, tackling climate change and the structure of council with a review of council-controlled organisation."
Edwards said it was hard to see any clear ideological trend in the results, but "if anything, it seems to me that it moved more to the left-wing".
"Certainly there is a more liberal direction, and by that I mean those candidates that stood on more progressive and environmental platforms seem to have done better than in the past," he said.
Local Government NZ said the overall voter turnout was 44 per cent, up slightly from 42 per cent in 2016 and 41.3 per cent in 2013.
But the vote collapsed in Auckland, by far the country's biggest council — down from 35 per cent in 2016 to just 30.4 per cent, the lowest in the country.
The turnout was also low in other big cities such as Hamilton (32.3 per cent), Wellington (35.8 per cent) and Christchurch (38.8 per cent).
The highest turnouts were in small rural councils led by Grey District (63.1 per cent) and Westland (60.7 per cent).
The final election results are expected to be announced between October 17 and October 23.