By MONIQUE DEVEREUX, South Island correspondent

Peter Chin can't work his cellphone very well. His receptionist has set the ring tone to some groovy tune that prompts him to mutter "bloody phone" whenever it rings.

Yesterday he was muttering it quite a bit.

It took 33 hours after voting ended for Mr Chin to hear he was Dunedin's new mayor, taking over from Sukhi Turner, who retired from the job after nine years. But since the news broke he has been "utterly and completely run off my feet" with phone calls, emails, flowers and media interviews.

His long wait - and that of his fellow-contenders - was the fault of the counting system in the single transferable vote method that the Dunedin City Council had adopted. Mr Chin hopes it is a problem that can quickly be addressed.

"There were a lot of parties around town on Saturday night where no one knew if they were supposed to be celebrating or having a wake. That can't be allowed to happen again."

His own party wound up at midnight with guests leaving none the wiser about their host's fate.

On Sunday the wait continued.

"First we were told the results would be out by 10, then midday then 2pm," he said.

When the news finally did come through, Mr Chin was at a dinner banquet, and had "all but given up of ever knowing".

He is still not sure of his exact wining margin.

Having lived in Dunedin all his life, Mr Chin, who is 63, says he hopes to serve the people well with his local knowledge and love of the city.

A lawyer, he is married with four children. He is involved in a number of community organisations, including chairing the Dunedin Chinese Gardens Trust.

He already has six years' experience on the council, "so, yes, I know the ropes a bit".

He says the election campaign was conducted politely and fairly. "Certainly didn't make headlines like your lot in Auckland. No, we're a bit quieter down here."

The fact that he is a Chinese man taking over from an Indian woman after defeating his main rival, Malcolm Farry, a Lebanese man, hardly rated a mention.

"Being such a student city we have all sorts here, of course. Race has never really been an issue. I think it was only brought up once."

Mr Chin says he is very much looking forward to taking over the reins. He wants to steer the city towards a bright future that will hopefully involve an influx of new residents.

The city's I am Dunedin campaign, aimed at convincing Aucklanders to shift south, has already had a positive response, he said.

"It is a fantastic place and we do have it all. I love the climate, the harbour, the city. I think there is a lot to love about Dunedin."

The rugby team?

"Well that's another story. Oh, I turned off the TV when Auckland scored that try," he said of Auckland's last-minute win over the Otago team in Friday night's NPC match.

"I could have just cried."

Mr Chin and Dunedin's four new councillors will be sworn in on October 26.

Herald Feature: Local Vote 2004

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