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Based on 95% of votes counted, Mr Hawkins has secured 15,060 votes _ putting him 1754 votes ahead of Cr Lee Vandervis, who finished in second place.
Aaron Hawkins, a Green Party candidate and incumbent Dunedin city councillor, had taken his son to a four-year-old's birthday party at Chipmunks when news of his election came through shortly before 3pm today.
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"I'm not speechless often, but that was one of those times.
"There was obviously already a lot of hysteria in the room. I tried to tell my son who has no idea what's going on. I tried to explain to him that it's just like the mayor in Paw Patrol.
"I couldn't compete with a pirate face mask unfortunately.''
Despite that, Cr Hawkins said it was "humbling to be given the privilege of leading our next council''.
"It's pretty overwhelming to be given this privilege.
"I was optimistic the city would get a good outcome, without being confident about me winning it.''
He was still digesting other results - including the election of four new city councillors and the loss of incumbent Damian Newell - but said the new mix around the table appeared to be positive.
"Initially I would say that bodes well for the city continuing in the positive direction that we've been heading in over the last six years, since I've been working here.
"This is a really exciting time for the city but also a very challenging time, and having progressive and capable leadership at the council table is going to be incredibly important in the next few years.''
He was yet to give any thought to appointments - including the role of deputy mayor or committee chairs' roles - or any changes to committee structures.
He would meet with council chief executive Sue Bidrose tomorrow, and councillors through next week, before making any announcements.
Asked how he expected to work with Cr Lee Vandervis - his closest mayoral rival and highest polling councillor - Mr Hawkins said: "I've survived six years so far.''
"He represents a segment of the community and that's fine. We'll continue to agree on some things and disagree on others. But I'm optimistic that we can conduct that in a collegial fashion.''
The Dunedin City Council election results, announced today, also saw Mr Hawkins see off challenges from 12 other candidates, including fellow incumbent councillors Andrew Whiley, in third place with 9409 votes, followed by Christine Garey (6905 votes), Jim O'Malley (5457 votes) and Jules Radich (3991 votes).
The results also showed Cr Vandervis was leading Mr Hawkins (8821 votes to 7874) after the first iteration of voting, before Single Transferable Vote (STV) preferences swung the result in Mr Hawkins' favour.
The result also makes Cr Hawkins one of New Zealand's youngest mayors, at just 35 years of age.
Cr Hawkins stood on a platform of continued progressive development in Dunedin, saying he wanted to focus on initiatives to improve housing, public transport and the natural environment.
The result also meant the city council would have a mayor committed to continuing progress on major initiatives, like waterfront development plans, cycleways and George St's redevelopment.
Cr Vandervis had pledged to cut spending, slash debt and focus more on core infrastructure and greater provision of parking in the city.
That included cutting spending on George St and the tertiary zone upgrade, as well as deferring the $20 million waterfront bridge.
However, his campaign had became mired in controversy, as details of complaints of abusive behaviour towards council staff this term emerged.
Cr Vandervis told the Otago Daily Times he knew the race was always going to be close, but his loss to Green Party candidate Aaron Hawkins was "quite disappointing''.
He was not surprised by the result, but was surprised by "the level of personal untruths that have been levelled throughout''.
He blamed the media for "a lack of debate around really important issues'', such as council debt and the new Dunedin Hospital site.