The contest to decide who will lead Tauranga for the next three years has turned into a seven-way clash featuring a mixture of the familiar, the eccentric and a dash of controversial new blood.

Mayor Stuart Crosby will face off against Councillors Murray Guy and regular mayoral contender Bill Faulkner.

Hori Leaming, aka the Bay of Plenty Steamers rugby mascot Hori Bop, will add his irrepressible booming touch to the campaign, while the other mayoral candidate survivor from 2007, John Robson, should restore a more serious tone to proceedings.

Mr Robson, a retired management consultant, astounded voters three years ago when his mayoral campaign statement began with "Don't give me your vote for Mayor. You don't know me - why would you vote for someone you don't know?

"Instead, vote for me as a councillor, get to know me, then decide whether to vote for me as Mayor in 2010."

True to his word, Mr Robson has returned to see if he can make a bigger impact on the electorate than last time.

Jill Parry, who leads the dune protection organisation Sandy Walkers, achieved a measure of notoriety last year when she let rip with some extremely unflattering comments about a council planner. Ms Parry, Mr Leaming and Mr Crosby have adopted an all-or-nothing approach while the other mayoral contenders, including Mark Groos, have hedged their bets by going for a seat on the council as well.

Mr Groos, a business consultant, was elected onto the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT) on the platform that all TECT's annual income should be distributed to TrustPower consumers in order that they could choose how to use the money. His sentiments were shared by other trustees, culminating in a public referendum on whether 20 per cent of TECT's income should continue to be distributed to community organisations.

The vote went overwhelmingly against Mr Groos.

The city council election has attracted 51 nominations for 11 seats - the most eagerly contested election in the Bay.

Tauranga's rural hinterland, governed by the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, seems positively content by comparison, with only 20 nominations for 13 seats.

Western Bay's Mayor Ross Paterson has been returned unopposed, with the three nominees for the the three seats on Western Bay's Te Puke Ward - including the return to politics of the wily old political campaigner, Mike Pittar.

Environment Bay of Plenty has attracted 35 nominations for 13 seats, with most interest centred on the Tauranga Constituency where former city councillor and ardent tree lover Mary Dillon is seeking to upset the old guard. Doug Owens, the son of the late Sir Bob Owens, is also making a bid for one of the Tauranga seats because of his concerns about the future ownership of the Port of Tauranga if the Auckland Super City reforms spread. However, the biggest focus of the elections will be around who wins the 10 seats on the Tauranga City Council, led by the emergence of some high-profile challengers. The remarkable exception are the two seats on the Mount-Papamoa Ward where nearly everyone has been scared off by the seemingly unbeatable pairing of Crs Wayne Moultrie and David Stewart.

Cr Greg Brownless' decision not to seek re-election has sparked renewed interest in the Otumoetai-Pyes Pa Ward's two seats. First-term councillors Mike Baker and Catherine Stewart are running in the ward, but they are up against against some stiff opposition, including soccer club supremo and Matua's unofficial mayor Richard Kluit, Pyes Pa's political chameleon Larry Baldock, former city councillor Jane Lyndon and the twice blooded but so far unsuccessful candidate, Graham Skellern from Matapihi.

The Te Papa-Welcome Bay Ward has sitting councillors, Bill Grainer and "For H-Evans Sake" Hayden Evans, feeling vulnerable against the likes of New Zealand rugby sevens legend Matua Parkinson and former councillor Terry Molloy.

The four at-large seats on the council has attracted the biggest raft of candidates, including sitting councillor Rick Curach who has abandoned his old catchy slogan "Pick Rick" for the much more mundane "A Prudent Approach".

Former TV weatherman and New Zealand First candidate Brendan Horan hopes to emulate retired TV newsreader Philip Sherry who used his instant public recognition to help get elected onto Environment BOP.

David Love, a retired RAF group captain, who came to public attention by his deft handling of last February's Tauranga Air show, was out of the blocks early with an imaginative election campaign.

Also in with a good chance is speedway driver and inspirational speaker, Tony Christiansen who has made a success of a life without legs.

Jim Walker whose drop-in music shop in Grey St made him one of the most popular retailers in town, is hoping to convert that into votes, while disgruntled Willow St traders Ben Tuck of Bronco's and menswear retailer Tony Young are hoping to bring about change by working from the inside.

Former councillor Anne Pankhurst, who condemned the abilities of the Pick 6 candidates that swept into power in 2007, wants to take off where she left off before she became a victim of Cr Murray Guy's now abandoned Pick 6 ticket.