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GULAPTIS TOPS POLL

TOP OF THE POLL:Chris Gulaptis. Photo: DEBRAH NOVAK.
TOP OF THE POLL:Chris Gulaptis. Photo: DEBRAH NOVAK.

By LEIGHPRITCHARD

MACLEAN'S Chris Gulaptis last night confirmed he would run for mayor of the first Clarence Valley Council, after topping Saturday's historic poll with a massive 4461 primary votes.

The former Maclean Shire mayor's domination was such that he went close to doubling the quota of 2580 votes needed for automatic election.

More than half of his votes came from polling booths at Maclean, Yamba and Gulmarrad in his Lower River stronghold.

Only Terry Flanagan, of Orara Way, also was assured of a position on the new council with a very respectable 2684 first preference votes. Councillor-elect Flanagan could not be contacted last night.

Both men, from the opposite sides of the political spectrum (Gulaptis The Nationals and Flanagan Country Labor) headed up 'independent' group tickets.

One worrying trend was an extremely high donkey vote; about 10 per cent of the total 22,485 votes counted on Saturday night and yesterday were informal. Informals normally account for about four per cent of votes.

Returning officer Ray Endean said the distribution of preferences would continue throughout this week and he expected a final declaration of the poll next Friday.

Councillor-elect Gulaptis said: "You go into an election with confidence but you never can be sure.

"I expected to poll reasonably well, but it was overwhelming,'' he said.

Mr Gulaptis said the four weeks of campaigning had taken its toll on his family and friends.

"We celebrated when we finished campaigning, it was then in the hands of the people," he said.

"My experience in business and development industry gives me a clear perspective of how things are in the Clarence Valley.

"I will be part of the team and I would like to lead the team.

"The direction of the council will be decided as a whole by council."

Mr Gulaptis said he was proud to be associated with Richie Williamson and Trevor Kapeen.

He said being part of a group enabled them to share resources and establish communication between the diverse sections in the Clarence Valley.

"Congratulations to all the candidates for having the courage to stand and congratulations to candidates who polled significantly on the day."

Mr Endean, in charge of a temporary staff of 110 people, said that with so many candidates, the distribution of preferential votes was complicated.

He cited a general trend among the 33,603 voters to be discerning, a large proportion going below the line to select nine councillors.

"Electors appeared to put a lot of thought into votes the way the votes were spread over the candidates and groups," he said.

"They looked at the calibre of the candidates."

There were eight groups and only two groups had boxes above the line including Terry Flanagan.

Mr Endean said there was a large informal vote of 10 per cent where people failed to vote correctly, he would usually expect 4 per cent informal votes.



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