WHEN the poll is officially declared, it will be back to business for Peter Besseling who has been returned as Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor.
The incumbent claimed victory on Sunday morning when first preference counting had secured him more than 58% of the vote for the top job.
His nearest contender, Peta Pinson, had managed 28% of first preference votes by Sunday afternoon and that, she said, was a personal victory and testament to challenging the status quo.
And she didn’t hesitate in announcing that she will have another crack at snaring the mayoral job in four years time now she has a bit of experience under her belt.
Third in line, Sharon Griffiths, had 14.75% of first preference voting for the mayor’s position, but looks likely to be returned as a councillor and possibly one of the only women elected.
Mr Besseling said the election results are a vindication of four years of hard work by the council and sets a platform for what is to come over this next term.
“From a personal perspective, it is very satisfying and satisfying for the team I ran with,” Mr Besseling said.
“I’m sure from the candidates who are in the mix to become councillors, we will have a very good working council once finalised.
“There will be some challenges ahead with the structural reforms for local government as well as trying to deal with some of our fundamental legacy issues like stormwater, sewer and roads alongside the huge growth we are experiencing.
“I think this has been a clear vote of confidence (by the community) in the way that I’ve approached the role in the past four years and it’s a really nice feeling to have had that vindication so strongly supported by the local community for the job we are doing.”
Peta Pinson, who strategically ran for the mayoral position only, said she has learned a lot from her first foray into local government ‘politics’ and will be watching to ensure council is clear about the community’s priorities.
“Peter Besseling was always going to be returned. I was under no illusion of that. My goal was to give him a run for his money and I think I did that well,” Ms Pinson said on Sunday.
“I feel I ran a strong campaign over the last six weeks and that probably concerned Group D and the mayor. There was a big swing. There are a lot of voters who have used their voice to show they are probably not necessarily as satisfied as they should be. I was an alternate voice.
“My commitment, if I was elected, was to do things in a different way. I hope the re-elected council, which will basically be a return of the same, is not just going to be a repeat of the same.
“If there are any lessons to be learned I don’t think they are mine. I think they are the mayor’s and his councillors and to have learned from this experience exactly what the voters and the community are asking for. The community must not just be listened to, but heard.”
Ms Pinson welcomed the challenges posed to her by the community during her campaign, agreeing it was a “baptism by fire”. She said her campaign “run on a shoestring” showed that her supporters were loyal. She has no regrets about not throwing her hat into the ring as a councillor where, if elected, would have allowed her to have a legitimate voice in decision-making.
“If elected as a councillor I would not have been as effective. It would have been four years of frustration and not a positive experience for me. I’ve copped the criticism for it.
“I will be challenging the position of mayor in four years time again, absolutely.”
Sharon Griffiths could not be contacted at the time of publication.
If there are any lessons to be learned I don’t think they are mine. I think they are the mayor’s and his councillors and to have learned from this experience exactly what the voters and the community are asking for. The community must not just be listened to, but heard.Peta Pinson
Returning Officer Ken Raison said the 2016 local government election in Port Macquarie-Hastings ran smoothly.
More than 61,000 residents voted with 17,500 of those pre-polling in the 11 days prior to election day.
With 2000 postal votes still expected, Mr Raison said the poll will not be officially declared until all votes have been counted.
Mr Raison, who has been working as the returning officer for the best part of a decade, said an election shines the light on all that is good about democracy in action.
“It’s not just about the paper (votes), it’s about the people and local issues,” he said.
Counting continues to determine which eight candidates will be elected to councillor positions in Port Macquarie-Hastings.
It is expected the new council will be formally inducted at the October council meeting.