New Zealand First back from wilderness with eight MPs

DANYA LEVY, TONY WALL
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2011
Winston Peters greets supporters at a New Zealand First celebration in Takapuna last night.
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
HE'S BACK: Winston Peters greets supporters at a New Zealand First celebration in Takapuna last night.

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NZ First has been swept back into parliament after three years in the political wilderness, with leader Winston Peters set to take seven MPs with him.

Peters has run a strong campaign which focused on charming the town halls and city squares of New Zealand.

He has managed to put behind him the controversies of 2008, when he was dogged by inquiries into political donations to NZ First.

Peters also managed to use the ongoing saga over the "teapot tape" to keep him in the media over the past fortnight, although he and party officials point to growing support before then.

There was a low-key, but buoyant atmosphere, at a hotel on Auckland's North Shore last night, where about 50 party faithful gathered. Peters arrived late.

Interim results gave NZ First 6.8 per cent of the party vote, which would give it eight seats.

Former North Shore mayor and the No3 on NZ First's party list, Andrew Williams, admitted he didn't expect the party to do so well, but said it had campaigned hard.

Williams is a controversial figure, hitting the headlines for urinating in public and sending late-night text messages to John Key.

Peters has spent the year travelling around the country, rebuilding support. He has a strong base of supporters among the elderly, many who claim free travel provided under NZ First's Super Gold Card has changed their lives.

Peters has vowed not to go into coalition with National or Labour.

"We will support good policy and oppose bad policy – we want to see the whole game lifted in terms of the economy," said Williams. NZ First will also take into parliament former MP Barbara Stewart, Investigate magazine columnist Richard Prosser, administrator Tracey Martin, former television weatherman Brendan Horan, Denis O'Rourke and Asenati Taylor.

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