Tewantin polling for Noosa Council with mayoral candidate Sandy Bolton, ccouncillor candidate Frank Pardon and outgoing Mayor Noel Playford working the crowd.
Tewantin polling for Noosa Council with mayoral candidate Sandy Bolton, ccouncillor candidate Frank Pardon and outgoing Mayor Noel Playford working the crowd. Peter Gardiner

NOOSA UPDATE: Playford to stick around as counting drags on

3PM

NOOSANS who thought they had seen the end of the Playford-Abbot era on Saturday have another thing coming.

Noel Playford has declared he will still be mayor "the week after next" as returning officers struggle with recalcitrant technology and the pressures of a closely contested mayoralty race between Tony Wellington and Sandy Bolton.

Noosa is one of five council contests trialling new vote counting technology this election. The machines were not working Saturday night and the process is proving to be cumbersome today.

While Mayor Playford is confident Mr Wellington will win, he remains just 369 votes ahead at this stage.

"There are four days to the Easter break from tomorrow and the rate they are going there'll be Buckley's chance they can declare the poll this week,'' Cr Playford said.

"The Returning Officer will work day and night but there is ultimately only so much you can do.''

The existing council will continue in caretaker mode until the result is declared and the new council sworn in.

That means Cr Playford and his Deputy Mayor Bob Abbot will retain office for the immediate future.

Cr Playford said regardless of the tightness of the contest trends had been set and barring something totally unexpected happening, Mr Wellington would win.

Mr Wellington has won nine of the booths counted to Ms Bolton's three. Ray Kelly, the third candidate in the field, has secured just under 5000 votes to date but very few have allocated preferences - in the order of only 10% - and those aren't all going one way to Ms Bolton has may have been expected.

Counts have still to go up for the councillor positions on the undivided council but observers say Frank Pardon, Frank Wilkie and Joe Jurisevic have been returned. They will be joined by Ingrid Jackson, Brian Stockwell and Jess Glasgow.

The Greens' candidate Aaron White, who many believe could have performed more strongly as an independent, has suffered a backlash from a community that clearly does not want party politics in local government.

MAYORAL COUNT

Tony Wellington: 11,420

Sandy Bolton: 11,051

Ray Kelly: 4934

6.50AM UPDATE

WITH 28,698 votes counted out of 38,768 in the incredibly tight contest to be the next Noosa mayor, Councillor Tony Wellington is clinging to 1.35% lead over a dogged Councillor Sandy Bolton.

With 13 of 18 booths tallied at the close of counting on Saturday night, Cr Wellington had 11,420 votes or 41.67% to his rival's 11,051 which is 40.32% of the tally to date.

The other mayoral candidate Ray Kelly is sitting at 4934 or 18%, with 4.51% or 1293 informal votes rounding out the total to date as counting continues today.

Noosa is not used to this sort of cliff-hanger, with outgoing Mayor Noel Playford winning in a cakewalk in 2013, while outgoing Deputy Mayor Bob Abbot has previously taken the top job uncontested.

With a final result likely to be days away, the two candidates will find it hard to relax as they hope to snatch victory, and even something as simple as Noosa having 20,163 enrolled women voters compared to 18,605 men, could prove decisive in the end.

That is because booth workers have seen strong female support for Cr Bolton.

This will go down to wire on postal votes and preferences.

Postal votes must have been completed before 6pm on polling day and received by the returning officer before close of business on Tuesday,  March 29, so a final decision could drag out.

In the race to make up the six councillor positions, Noosa returning officer Colin Brown had hoped to post the results of counting on one ballot box of around 1000 votes on Saturday night, but there were no tallies online overnight and this count will be on in earnest today.

Candidates like Steve Boyd, Ingrid Jackson and Councillor Frank Pardon spent their election night alongside Cr Bolton at the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club, like her, none the wiser of their electoral fate.

In the state referendum for four-year fixed terms, Noosa is looking far more decisive with almost 57% voting "yes" to making politicians serve their full term and send voters to the poll at a set date, with more than 15,000 votes counted. More than 43% of voters gave this the thumbs down.

This result is similar to the state tally to date with 53.3% voting yes after 1.4 million referendum ballots counted from a touch over 3 million eligible voters.
The "no" vote stood at 46.7%.

LAST NIGHT:

THE race to become the next Noosa mayor was locked in an intense battle more than halfway through the counting, with Councillor Tony Wellington holding the slightest of leads over his close rival Councillor Sandy Bolton.

It could be days and possibly a week before a winner could be proclaimed as thousands of postal votes have to be tallied.

With 54.5% of the vote counted by about 9.15pm, and three days of pre-polling votes still to come, Cr Wellington held a 113 vote lead.

His scrutineers had 8593 votes for him on their last count and 8480 for Cr Bolton.

The official Electoral Commission Queensland website, which was slightly behind, showed 12 of the 18 booths in, with Cr Wellington holding 41.94% of the vote with 7825 votes and Cr Bolton on 40.32% with 7523.

The third candidate, Ray Kelly, was out of the race with 17.73%, or 3308 votes, but any preferences votes for the other two hopefuls may go a long way to deciding who will lead Noosa for the next four years.

Cr Wellington, who was with his supporters at the Tinbeerwah Hall, said there was a long way to go in the overall count.

"It's too close to call," Cr Wellington said.

"No one will know for a week, I don't think.

"It's an interesting time in Noosa's history ... it's been 19 years since Noosa has had an untried mayor and in this case it is going to come down to either myself of Sandy Bolton who will be the first new mayor to put their feet under the mayoral desk for almost two decades."

Cr Bolton, who was with her support crew at the Noosa Heads Bowls Club, said whichever way the contest went "it has been a really worthwhile journey".

It left Mr Kelly, 73, a former long-term Cooroy councillor, lamenting that low budget campaigns like his could no longer compete.

Noosa councillors weren't counted by the time of print.