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With a new lease on life, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters strutted into a jubilant atmosphere after a historic result gave him a ticket back to Parliament after three years in the political wilderness.
After a dramatic campaign and a late surge in support, New Zealand First won about 7 per cent of the party vote, delivering eight or nine MPs, depending on how the numbers fall when the results are finalised.
Written off by many, attacked in the final days of the campaign by all parties on the right, most notably by National leader John Key, Mr Peters bounced back from the dead.
And last night he was predictably unpredictable. He arrived at the Spencer Hotel in Takapuna and a gave a five-minute speech to about 50 supporters, firing barbs at the media and veiled shots at his doubters, before rushing off to "attend other meetings".
"I want to thank those voters around the country from Kaitaia to invercargil, and from further north and south than that ... who brought us back home to Parliament."
He hinted at being unfairly hamstrung to the point that affected the party vote.
"Dare I say I regret that we haven't brought in more [MPs], and there circumstances for that, and I'll talk about that in the next few days.
"Tonight it's about thanking the people who have shown they believe in democracy still and they believe in a fair go.
"Others had huge resources. Some parties spent more than four thousand times what New Zealand First spent on this campaign."
He was not shy of a few words for the media.
"We'll never forget the nature of this campaign. For much of it New Zealand First was marginalised, stigmatised and even demonised in a substantial black out from my friends in front of me in the media.
"But nevertheless it speaks the enormous character of the NZ First membership that they never stopped believing that we could come back."
He said the party would be "positive and constructive" as it heads for the opposition benches.
"There are serious economic problems we face as a country and we will never get through them unless we're united as one people.
In that unity we share in the pain and we all share in the gain, and that's what New Zealand First stands for."
He congratulated the other NZ First candidates that will be MPs.
"I wish I could be with you, but you didn't hire a big enough hall."
The result sees a bevy of NZ First candidates entering Parliament, including former North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams, Rodney local board member Tracey Martin, and former Investigate columnist Richard Prosser.
Party support surged in the final weeks of the campaign, when Mr Peters benefited from a high profile when he leaked alleged details of the teapot tape, the conversation between Prime Minister John Key and Act's John Banks.
Andrew Williams said the teapot saga "would not have been detrimental to New Zealand First".
"But at the end of the day, New Zealand First has for some time now been doing lot of work in the communities, and talking to everyday good Kiwi New Zealanders and they are responding, I believe, to the fact that New Zealand First has been missing from Parliament."
Mr Peters has said he will sit on the opposition benches. But that does not mean it can support confidence and supply votes for a Budget it approves of, or vote in favour of Government bills.
It would vote issue by issue.
New Zealand First list:
1. Winston Peters, list: Party leader. Was minister of Foreign Affairs under the previous Labour-led government
2. Tracey Martin, Rodney: A member of the Rodney Local Board of Auckland Council, and chairwoman of the board of trustees of Mahurangi College
3. Andrew Williams, North Shore: Mayor of North Shore City from 2007 to 2010. Made headlines for sending a message to Prime Minister John Key at 3.30am and urinating against a Takapuna tree
4. Richard Prosser, Waimakariri: A columnist for Investigate magazine, and as an independent in 2007 called for the South Island to consider establishing a separate parliament, before pulling out of the election
5. Barbara Stewart, Waikato: A former teacher, was a member of parliament from 2002 to 2008 and the party's spokeswoman for Health, Social Services, Family and Industry Training
6. Brendan Horan, Tauranga: A weather presenter for One News until he took redundancy in 2007 when Jim Hickey returned to the network
7. Denis O'Rourke
8. Asenati Taylor
9. Helen Jane Mulford
10. Hugh Barr
- Derek Cheng and Paul Harper