Former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock will return to politics as mayor of a northern Sydney council in one of the few wins for the Liberal Party in NSW’s local government elections.
About 2.8 million people were enrolled to vote in the 46 council areas which went to the polls on Saturday, the first council elections since the state government walked away from its controversial amalgamations plan.
That move had been predicted to fuel a backlash against the Liberals, who lost power in councils such as Ryde, Parramatta, Randwick and Waverley.
“The Liberals copped a thumping, they forced mergers, they rigged boundaries with the intent of capturing control of local government and people across NSW punished them for that,” Opposition Leader Luke Foley said alongside new Ryde mayor Jerome Laxale.
Final results are almost a week away, but many mayors have already taken to social media to claim victory.
Mr Ruddock, Australia’s second-longest serving federal politician, came out of retirement on a Liberal ticket to snatch the mayorship of Hornsby by a convincing margin.
He secured 48.44 per cent of the vote with all the formal votes counted on Saturday evening, eclipsing the second-placed candidate by almost three times as many votes.
“I’ve come back into (politics) with a very clear focus,” Mr Ruddock told AAP. “I often make the point, we are the city’s lungs. You need to maintain them.”
In Newcastle, Labor candidate Nuatali Nelmes was re-elected with 43.86 per cent by the time all formal votes were counted.
Hills Shire residents chose a popularly-elected mayor for the first time with Liberal candidate Michelle Byrne romping to victory with 62 per cent of the vote.
Labor incumbent John Faker will be returned as Burwood mayor.
The race in Wollongong began as a tight contest between independent Gordon Bradbery and Labor’s David Brown, but on Sunday Mr Bradbery extended his lead.
The mayoral contests in Hunters Hill and Orange remained close on Sunday.
A number of council results may be determined by pre-poll and postal votes.
The Greens said they had a strong increase in support and may win between 29 and 34 positions across the state.
“NSW has seen through the ugly politics of forced amalgamations, privatisation and overdevelopment being pushed by the Liberal government and demanded change,” NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said in a statement.
Final results are expected by September 16.
-with Jamie McKinnell, AAP