Gore and Southland district mayorships due within 48hrs

The next 48 hours should decide the fate of five on-edge southern mayoral candidates left hanging after a pair of elections were too close to call.

In the Gore District mayoral race, newcomer Ben Bell (23) is ahead of the incumbent Tracy Hicks (70) by just 13 votes and would be the youngest mayor in New Zealand history if elected.

With only 67 special votes yet to be counted, the final result is expected today or tomorrow.

Until then, Mr Hicks said he still had a job to do and though his 18 years as mayor could be coming to an end, he was "in a pretty good space mentally".

Mr Bell said he did not have time to stress about the final outcome.

"Obviously it’s on the back of my mind constantly, but it’s just go-go-go at the moment."

Mr Bell had been dealing with media, talking to leaders and key members of the community and "getting advice in terms of what my 100-day plan is going to be".

"Also just trying to organise my thoughts ... so I can hit the ground running come Friday if it goes my way. If I don’t get it then I don’t get it and that’s fine, but I want to be prepared if I do get it."

Mr Hicks hoped for a decisive result for everyone’s sake, but would not rule out calling for a recount if the votes were close.

However he had been advised by his scrutineers, who had spoken with Electionz, that a recount was unlikely without good reason.

The Southland District mayoral race also remains too close to call. Rob Scott is in the lead with 2454 votes, Geoffrey Young second with 2436 votes and the incumbent Gary Tong is 15 votes behind him.

Cr Scott said the wait had left him on edge.

"To have that sort of anticipation, of not knowing, and sort of dragging on from expecting to know on Saturday, then expecting to know on Sunday."

He said if the final count remained close he would only consider requesting a recount if it was down to 1 or 2 votes.

Mr Tong said it was a tense situation for all candidates, including family and friends.

"I’m still doing mayoral duties, which is a bit surreal but that’s how it is.

"I’m not going to throw my hands in the air and say I’m not doing it, because that’s why I’m here, to represent the people. And I won’t let that go until such time as the voters tell me."

A potential recount was not on his mind, though if it was requested by the other candidates he would continue to perform his duties as mayor until the the results were finalised.

Mr Young said his feelings of anxiety at Sunday’s results had passed and he was now feeling fairly relaxed about the race.

"I’ve been flat out working right through the weekend and up until today, so I’m just going to wait and see what transpires in the end.

"I would certainly prefer to have a really solid majority, but it is what it is, and there’s a real selection of candidates here which is a good thing," Mr Young said.

"People had pretty worthwhile choices to make I think."

Other races still too close to call include the Dunstan constituency for the Otago Regional Council where incumbent Michael Laws (9275) is leading Tony Lepper (9246) by 29 votes for the final of three seats on the council.

The final two places on the Invercargill City Council, currently filled by incumbent Peter Kett (6295) and Barry Stewart (6205), are still yet to be confirmed with Graham Lewis (6192) hot on their heels.

Rules for a recount*

• Candidates who believe a vote tally is incorrect must apply to a district court judge for a recount within three days of the result.

• The judge must then decide if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe the tally is incorrect and that on a recount the candidate might be elected.

• If a recount is ordered, candidates can appoint scrutineers to look over the process.

*From the Local Electoral Act 2001

- By Michael Curreen and Ben Tomsett