11.01pm: It's just about goodnight from us here in the Herald's tally room.
A region wide recap for you before we head off to bed.
In Newcastle it looks like Jeff McCloy will be the new lord mayor and will win with more than 40 per cent of the primary vote. Labor's vote was up, and would have been enough to win the last election. But Mr McCloy steamrolled fellow independents, and preference flows will leave Nuatali Nelmes short of the mark.
In Lake Macquarie, Labor's Jodi Harrison is set for victory with an impressive swing towards the party.
Labor is also in front at Cessnock, and the party would be pleased to win back two mayoralties and see an increased vote across the board.
In Maitland, Peter Blackmore annihalated his opposition and will not need a preference count to win another term in office.
At Port Stephens, the race is tight, but Bruce MacKenzie looks set to return to his old job as the area's first directly elected mayor. He has been run very close by Geoff Dingle, but preferences will get Macka over the line.
Elsewhere, the vote at Singleton will go to preferences, with Kylie Stibbard narrowly leading John Martin, and incumbent Sue Moore running third.
We'll have a full run down of the results in Monday's Newcastle Herald, including council ward races.
Thanks for following!
10.56pm: PORT STEPHENS We finally have a result! Or as close to a result as we could hope for. Bruce MacKenzie spent a lot of money on his campaign, but he has been run extremely close by Geoff Dingle. "Macka" looks set to win, after doing a preference deal with Sally Dover, who also polled well.
Geoff Dingle 9556 34%
Bruce MacKenzie 10,475 37%
Sally Dover 7919 28%
10.37pm: CESSNOCK With most of the precincts reporting, Bob Pynsent looks to be Cessnock's new mayor. Labor has won 27 per cent of the vote in a 10-way contest. Preferences will be needed and the count will continue into tomorrow. Alison Davey has been well and truly tossed out.
Alison Davey 1435 8%
James Ryan 1731 10%
Toby Thomas 1425 8%
Bob Pynsent 4785 27%
Cordelia Burcham 2685 15%
John Harvey 2621 15%
Allan McCudden 905 5%
Ian Olsen 782 4%
Rachel Main 1117 6%
Neil Gorman 292 2%
10.36pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Damon Cronshaw reports from Lake Macquarie, with 50 per cent of the vote counted:
ALP's Jodie Harrison - 35.1 per cent
Ind Wendy Harrison - 22.9 per cent
Lib Ken Paxinos - 22.5 per cent
Ind Jim Sullivan - 7.4 per cent
Greens Phillipa Parsons - 8.6 per cent
Ind Arjay Martin - 3.5 per cent
The results so far show a swing to Labor of 8.9 per cent and a swing away from the Independent Lake Alliance of 38.3 per cent.
ALP's Jodie Harrison is on course to be Lake Macquarie's first female mayor.
''It's great to be out in front nearly halfway through," Jodie said.
10.23pm: MAITLAND It's a runaway victory for incumbent Peter Blackmore in Maitland, as expected. With one booth still to report back, Blackmore has already won the election on primary votes. His total should be about 54 per cent of the city.
He said he was "very pleased that I had the overwhelming support of the people."
"It's great for me and the team. When I say the team I'm talking about the officers of council, employees of council, fellow councillors and the community."
Just another quick plug for our election contractors, who are still reporting on their website that only two booths have reported results.
10.10pm: SINGLETON All the booths are in for Singleton's poll. Kylie Stibbard has a lead of about 350 votes, but it looks like this one will be decided by the three Ps. Pre-poll, postal and preferences!
John Martin 2658 22%
Kylie Stibbard 2992 25%
Lee Gallacher 519 4%
Sue Moore 1923 16%
Terence O'Brien 664 6%
Fred Harvison 1421 12%
Tony McNamara 1664 14%
9.57pm: NEWCASTLE The official results are only very early, but feedback is that Labor will win four council spots, and the Libs will win at least three, with Allan Robinson elected in Ward 4.
The Greens are also likely to get up in Ward 1, which means Aaron Buman could be leaving the council altogether. Races in the other wards are expected to be tight.
9.44pm: PORT STEPHENS It's three and a half hours since polls closed and the Port Stephens returning office has gone offline. No phones, no web updates. Former mayor Bruce MacKenzie says "I don't know what's going on". The best feedback we have is that Cr MacKenzie is leading in five of six booths to report back, but that his council adversary Geoff Dingle is also polling well.
9.36pm: UPPER HUNTER All booths are in at Upper Hunter Shire, with some pre-polls and Sydney votes still to come. Lee Watts has three times a quota and should get Deirdre Peebles and Ron Campbell from her ticket on to the council. Michael Johnsen and Maurice Collison also have a quota.
9.27pm: We're also getting a lot of feedback about the paucity of results coming from the contractor running the Lower Hunter elections. The electoral commission can post results promptly. To borrow a turn of phrase from Jeff McCloy, "surely it's not that hard".
9.26pm: PORT STEPHENS We still have no official results, just word of mouth. We understand that Bruce MacKenzie is leading in four of the five booths reporting, but that Geoff Dingle is also polling well. Will post results as soon as they're made available.
9.21pm: CESSNOCK We've been sent an updated count for the coalfields. We only have percentages, but will have the official numbers soon. Preferences will come into play, but it's another decent result for Labor. The party would certainly be happy to win back two mayoralties tonight.
9.20pm: NEWCASTLE: Jeff McCloy has scored in some odd places today. Cooks Hill usually goes bright Green. Results show Mr McCloy more than doubling the tallies of the Greens and Labor there.
9.19pm: NEWCASTLE Labor's hopes tonight rest on good results at Islington and several booths around Mayfield that have not yet reported and would typically lean to the left. If those booths can pull back Jeff McCloy's lead, we will have ourselves a race.
9.06pm: MUSWELLBROOK Most of Muswellbrook is reporting and it looks as though Mayor Martin Rush, Brett Woodruff, Stephen Ward, Gary Serhan and Graeme McNeill will reach the quota on first preferences. The final spots might require a preference count.
9.01pm: LAKE MACQUARIE This just in from our Lake Macquarie reporter Damon Cronshaw. It looks like Jodie Harrison will provide a big positive for Labor tonight.
40,000 votes (about 35-40 per cent of total) counted in Lake Macquarie.
Jodie Harrison (ALP) - 14,298 - 35%
Wendy Harrison (Ind) - 9258 - 22.7%
Ken Paxinos (Libs) - 9359 - 22.9%
Jim Sullivan (Ind) - 2792 - 6.8%
Phillipa Parsons (Greens) - 3626 - 8.9%
Arjay Martin (Ind) - 1485 - 3.6%
Vote so far represents an 8.8 per cent swing to Labor and a 3.7 per cent swing away from the Greens.
8.58pm: NEWCASTLE Labor's 26 per cent of the vote in Newcastle is still a very healthy improvement from four years ago, when the party polled just 18 per cent. In fact, if things remain in step, it would be Labor's best result in Newcastle since 1999. That tally would have been enough to win four years ago. But McCloy seems to have thoroughly scooped the independent vote.
8.57pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Damon Cronshaw is getting information that with 40 per cent of the vote counted, Jodie Harrison from Labor still has a healthy lead.
8.56pm: The private contractor running elections has not yet posted results for Newcastle or Port Stephens. It's been nearly three hours since counting began. Our results for Newcastle are official booth counts.
8.51pm: Have just recieved a message from Kristen McPherson, who is the Newcastle lord mayor's executive assistant. She served for 13 years with John Tate and is watching our coverage with interest.
"Hi Ben, spending my Saturday night with you hoping to find out who will be my new boss," she writes.
8.46pm: DUNGOG Dungog's A Ward, which is centred on the township, is a very tight race for three council seats.
Tracey Norman 240 22%
Stephen Farrow 333 31%
Neville Bale 277 26%
Jennifer Lewis 217 20%
8.41pm: NEWCASTLE Updated, with percentage counts. McCloy has a commanding lead, but remember that Nelmes will recieve most of the preferences from the Greens and Buman. It's just close enough to remain too close to call.
Nuatali Nelmes 5299 26%
Aaron Buman 1376 7%
Jacqueline Haines 892 4%
John Sutton 2176 11%
Bryan Havenhand 510 3%
Col Peebles 403 2%
Jeff McCloy 8505 41%
8.36pm: NEWCASTLE Results are finally official and it looks like we're heading for a McCloy coronation.
Nuatali Nelmes 5299
Aaron Buman 1376
Jacqueline Haines 892
John Sutton 2176
Bryan Havenhand 510
Col Peebles 403
Jeff McCloy 8505
8.31pm: SINGLETON Only three booths left to report in the Singleton mayoral race. This will certainly go down to preferences, and the result is unlikely to be known any time soon.
John Martin 1948 24%
Kylie Stibbard 1926 24%
Lee Gallacher 240 3%
Sue Moore 1430 18%
Terence O'Brien 455 6%
Fred Harvison 880 11%
Tony McNamara 1184 15%
8.26pm: GLOUCESTER Checking in at Gloucester and the first results are mixed. Nine candidates are vying for seven council spots.
Frank Hooke 452 27%
Aled Hoggett 252 15%
Tony Tersteeg 164 10%
James Dupree 82 5%
Katheryn Smith 116 7%
John Rosenbaum 171 10%
Jim Henderson 198 12%
James Hooke 136 8%
Jerry Germon 102 6%
8.21pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Here are the full results for the lake city. Damon Cronshaw reminds us that while it looks hopeful for Jodie Harrison, don't count your chickens. West Ward is Wendy Harrison's stronghold, and many booths there are not yet reporting.
Arjay Martin 447 4%
Ken Paxinos 2665 21%
Jodie Harrison 4111 33%
Jim Sullivan 1000 8%
Wendy Harrison 3102 25%
Phillipa Parsons 1120 9%
8.16pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Our Lake Macquarie reporter Damon Cronshaw is on the case, even if the private contractor isn't. Looks like the Independent Lake Alliance is going to struggle to hold the council after the retirement of Greg Piper.
He reports that with 12 booths reporting, the mayoral count is:
Jodie Harrison (ALP) 32.5%
Wendy Harrison (Ind) 23.6%
Ken Paxinos (Lib) 23%
8.12pm: LAKE MACQUARIE: We're hearing unofficially that Labor's Jodie Harrison has the lead in the mayoral race. Booths reporting so far are from the North and East wards. No official results yet.
8.09pm: We're still waiting for results at Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle. Reports from Newcastle have Jeff McCloy ahead on primary votes in all booths. He'll need to win handsomely on primaries, as most preferences will flow to Labor's Nuatali Nelmes.
8.08pm: CESSNOCK Wow, what a tight race in the Coalfields!
Alison Davey 32 9%
James Ryan 26 7%
Toby Thomas 11 3%
Bob Pynsent 75 21%
Cordelia Burcham 75 21%
John Harvey 78 22%
Allan McCudden 27 8%
Ian Olsen 14 4%
Rachel Main 13 4%
Neil Gorman 4 1%
8.06pm: CESSNOCK First results are in and it's very, very close. Only two small booths (Neath and Pokolbin) reporting, but John Harvey, Cordelia Burcham (Liberal) and Bob Pynsent (Labor) are all within three votes of one another. Incumbent Alison Davey has just nine per cent.
8.02pm: UPPER HUNTER Mayor Lee Watts is easily the most popular council candidate in the Upper Hunter Shire, with about 30 per cent of the vote. Michael Johnsen and Maurice Collison seem to be safe also.
8.01pm: SINGLETON John Martin and Kylie Stibbard have pulled clear of Sue Moore in the mayoral race. There's only five votes separating the frontrunners.
John Martin 1505 24%
Kylie Stibbard 1501 25%
Lee Gallacher 187 3%
Sue Moore 1079 18%
Terence O'Brien 344 5.6%
Fred Harvison 631 10%
Tony McNamara 892 15%
7.56pm: MAITLAND For the record, the two booths reporting at Maitland are East Maitland Public School and Millers Forest.
7.52pm: NEWCASTLE No formal results yet, but word from the Jeff McCloy camp is positive for the businessman and developer. Feedback is that their numbers are high, including at places like Mayfield East where they expected Labor to poll well. I spoke with Mr McCloy briefly, and he said he was still expecting "Nuatali [Nelmes] to poll strongly"
7.46pm: GREAT LAKES We won't have detailed results for Great Lakes until later, because most candidates are running in groups. The groups led by Len Roberts and Jan McWilliams both have about 25 per cent of the vote.
7.41pm: SINGLETON Sue Moore looks to be in a close fight to hold on to her job as mayor.
John Martin 477 22%
Kylie Stibbard 419 20%
Lee Gallacher 48 2%
Sue Moore 573 26%
Terence O'Brien 126 6%
Fred Harvison 159 7%
Tony McNamara 338 16%
7.38pm: DUNGOG Glenn Wall has pulled ahead in Dungog's C Ward. The early vote must not have been from the Vacy area, where the former mayor is very popular. Looks like it will be tight for the final of three spots in the ward.
Robert Booth 356 28%
Linda Bowen 220 17%
Glenn Wall 487 38%
Dave Rouse 204 16%
7.37pm: We've just had word throught Twitter that Cordelia Burcham and her supporters are watching our coverage. Hope to bring you some news from Cessnock very soon.
7.31pm: The private contractors are being thoroughly thrashed by the NSW Electoral Commission. Still no official booth counts from Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens and Cessnock - the five councils that opted to run their own polls.
7.26pm: SINGLETON Incumbent Sue Moore is pulling away in mayoral polling and has 32 per cent of the primary vote.
John Martin 243 18.22
Kylie Stibbard 201 15.07%
Lee Gallacher 35 2.62%
Sue Moore 428 32.08%
Terence O'Brien 96 7.20%
Fred Harvison 78 5.85%
Tony McNamara 253 18.97%
7.24pm: NEWCASTLE Looks like a good night ahead for Jeff McCloy. No results yet from Newcastle but @corinnepaterson has just tweeted from the New Lambton booth count (see gallery). The biggest pile, she says, is for Jeff McCloy.
7.17pm: UPPER HUNTER We've also gone one booth reporting from Upper Hunter Shire. Things still very early:
Lee Watts (Group) 37 24.67%
Wayne Bedgood 24 16%
Lorna Driscoll 1 0.67%
Kiwa Fisher 8 5.33%
Russell Sakey 2 1.33%
Michael Johnsen 18 12%
Peter Bishop 11 7.33%
Gary Mauger 0 0.00
Maurice Collison 48 32%
7.11pm: MUSWELLBROOK It looks like Muswellbrook is backing Mayor Martin Rush for another term on council. He's the standout from early polling.
Stephen Ward 50 17.54%
Karen Portolan 7 2.46%
Brett Woodruff 56 19.65%
Martin Rush 94 32.98%
Malcolm Ogg 2 0.70%
Rod Scholes 8 2.81%
Christine Phelps 22 7.72%
Janelle Risby 1 0.05%
John Shewan 6 2.11%
Jennifer Lecky 8 2.81%
Gary Serhan 17 5.96%
Raymond Butchard 7 2.46%
Graeme McNeill 7 2.46%
7.07pm: Nothing yet from our five lower Hunter councils using a private contractor.
7.03pm: SINGLETON We also have early results from the Singleton mayoral poll. Way too early to represent a trend across the local government area.
John Martin 122 26.75%
Kylie Stibbard 84 18.42%
Lee Gallacher 8 1.75%
Sue Moore 97 21.27%
Terence O'Brien 33 7.24%
Fred Harvison 30 6.58%
Tony McNamara 82 17.98%
7.02pm: DUNGOG Our first results tonight come from Dungog's C Ward. Robert Booth won more than 50 per cent of votes at the first polling place to report. Only 346 votes counted so far.
Robert Booth 173 52.23%
Linda Bowen 32 9.85%
Glenn Wall 31 9.54%
Dave Rouse 89 27.38%
6.57pm: Just a reminder to contact me with any election tips, gossip or feedback:
email@example.com / @bensmee
6.47pm: One of the other great contests on election day is the polling booth barbeque. We've heard good things about New Lambton South, but @garthk took a photo of the Mayfield East sizzle, and it looks pretty appetising!
6.45pm: At Port Stephens, voters are directly electing their mayor for the first time. The controversial former mayor Bruce MacKenzie is running against a bitter opponent, Medowie councillor Geoff Dingle. Cr Sally Dover is also a contender.
Maitland Mayor Peter Blackmore is tipped to keep his job. He tweeted earlier that it was a “great day in Maitland”.
Just a reminder that we will post the results here as soon as booths are reporting.
6.30pm: The contest at Cessnock is another thriller. Nine candidates have lined up to knock incumbent Alison Davey off her increasingly shaky perch.
If Davey loses, it could mean that general manager Lea Rosser’s days are numbered. Many of the contenders are councillors who supported a no confidence vote in the general manager.
Cessnock is an area Labor is hoping to win back, while Liberal Cordelia Burcham has also campaigned strongly.
6.20pm: At Lake Macquarie, we should soon have a better idea about who will succeed Greg Piper as mayor. The focus of that race has been on the Harrisons – Independent Wendy Harrison and Labor’s Jodie Harrison.
For Labor, this is an important election in the Hunter heartland. They party’s head office has helped bankroll local campaigns as it looks to rebuild support in the lead up to a Federal election. Tonight could be a good night for Labor, or a statement that the party’s heartland is indeed shrinking.
The other story at Lake Macquarie is the Back to Basics coalition, who have run in opposition to the council’s rates increase. They have been encouraged by their pre-poll showing.
6.10pm: There are some really interesting races tonight.
In Newcastle, the city is picking a successor to lord mayor John Tate. Campaign volunteers for Jeff McCloy and Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes are both upbeat after balloting today.
The big talking point in Newcastle has been former jockey Allan Robinson, who turned his back on Aaron Buman’s ticket and backed Jeff McCloy.
6pm: Hello and welcome to our live election coverage.
Ben Smee here with you and we expect the first results for 11 Hunter councils to start rolling in about 7pm.
You can share your thoughts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting @bensmee.
Many of the elections are being run by a private contractor and results will not be available on the NSW electoral commission’s website. Let’s hope the counting goes more smoothly than some of the ballot draws last month.