NUATALI Nelmes has promised to "lead the discussion on housing affordability", keep addressing climate change and continue the city's urban renewal as Newcastle's next lord mayor.
Mrs Nelmes has been recognised by her opponents as the clear victor of the mayoral race with almost half of the possible votes counted.
She will enter a third term as mayor once the results are official and said on Sunday it would be an "honour" to serve the city once more.
"It's a real privilege to represent the city you grew up in and have raised your kids in," she said. "I never take it for granted and want to make sure Newcastle is always able to put its best foot forward and gets its fair share."
Much of the pre-election hype was about whether Labor would maintain its majority on council, and it appears likely to do so after polling well in wards 3 and 4 where it hopes to retain a combined four seats.
Based on the votes counted so far, Labor incumbent councillors Declan Clausen, Carol Duncan and Peta Winney-Baartz are all certain to be returned, along with the party's lead Ward 4 candidate Deahnna Richardson.
The Newcastle Independents could drop from having four councillors to only one with the Greens likely to win two seats and the Liberals looming to claim at least one extra representative to the sole seat they had last term.
Labor declared Mrs Nelmes the winner of the lord mayoral contest about 9.30pm on Saturday night.
The announcement drew repeated chants of "Nua, Nua, Nua" from a room full of supporters at the Sunnyside Tavern in Broadmeadow.
By the end of the night, Mrs Nelmes had 41.1 per cent of the mayoral vote - on par with the 42.5 per cent she was elected with in 2017.
"It is wonderful to have very similar results to last time and to know that all the work we put in over the last term of council has paid off," she said on the night.
Her main challenger, John Church of the Newcastle Independents, acknowledged her victory on Sunday.
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"Based on the early trends, Nuatali Nelmes will be our next lord mayor and I wish to congratulate her and wish her every success," he said.
Mr Church will return as a councillor. He had 26.7 per cent of the mayoral vote, up on the 20.8 per cent Kath Elliott attracted when she finished runner-up in 2017.
"There's a constituency there that needs to be represented and I look forward to doing that," Mr Church said.
Mrs Elliott has all but lost her seat on council, attracting only 9.9 per cent of the vote in Ward 4 where Labor is on track to retain two seats.
Mrs Elliott was an incumbent in Ward 2 but made the decision to run for Ward 4 after the Independents parted ways in July with former councillor Allan Robinson.
With more than a third of the possible votes counted in Ward 4, The Liberals' Callum Pull (17.5 per cent) is positioned to take the third seat ahead of entertainer Wayne Rogers (11.3 per cent).
In Ward 1, Declan Clausen, The Greens' John Mackenzie and John Church are set to be returned to council.
With more than a third of the possible votes counted, Mr Clausen had won 32.8 per cent of the vote, while Mr Church (25.7 per cent) and Mr Mackenzie (25.3 per cent) were on almost equal terms separated by only 57 votes.
Labor polled well in Ward 2, which takes in Merewether, Hamilton and Adamstown, where Carol Duncan was holding 35.1 per cent with almost half of the possible votes counted.
The Liberals, Greens and Newcastle Independents candidates are separated by only a few hundred votes.
Jenny Barrie (LIB) was on 22.8 per cent, followed by Charlotte McCabe (GRN) on 21.7 per cent and PJ Fallon (IND) on 20.3 per cent.
In Ward 3, where almost half of the votes have been counted, Mrs Nelmes gained 41.2 per cent of the vote, but she will vacate the ticket once officially elected mayor and the votes will flow down to Peta Winney-Baartz and Margaret Wood once Winney-Baartz is across the line.
The Liberals' Katrina Wark is on track to claim the third seat with 18.0 per cent of the vote, but The Greens' Sinead Francis-Coan (14.3 per cent) still looms as a contender.
"I think we've got two seats but Ward 3 is a bit of a long," Greens spokesman John Mackenzie said on Sunday.
Mr Church said the ban on handing out how-to-cards made it difficult to predict the make-up of some wards.
"Some are a little too close to call and it will come down to preferences, postal votes and the iVotes," he said. "It can come down to a handful at the end of the day."
The full outcome won't be known for weeks as postal voting closes December 17.
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