Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been full of praise for New Zealand First leader Winston Peters who will be missing from the new parliament. NZ First fell short in its efforts to mount a return to Wellington after votes were counted on election night.
"I think he's left a huge legacy and I absolutely believe that," Ardern told reporters.
She said the 75-year-old's devotion to politics deserved respect.
"Regardless of whether or not New Zealanders have voted for him in the past or your view on him, I think most of us would agree he has given his life and service to politics in New Zealand.
"I think that for me commands my respect."
Ardern hoped Peters would have the opportunity to offer a valedictory speech if his 36-year political career had drawn to an end.
'Wait and see'
Peters, who has stepped away from the media gaze today, may still have a political comeback up his sleeve, however.
"As for the next challenge, we'll all have to wait and see," Peters said with a smile on election night.
Acknowledging that NZ First would be a missing face in the next parliament, he was warm in his recognition of those who had won through.
"To those who have been successful tonight, our congratulations and best wishes," he said.
“Elections are about the democracy and what the people wish and we should never stop trusting the people, who we are privileged to serve in whatever capacity and for however long.”
Peters was proud of his party's service during one of the most difficult and challenging periods in our country's history.
"We committed ourselves three years ago to be a constructive partner in government to provide certainty and stability in a fast-changing world.
"This was an election that, because of Covid-19 and extended lockdowns, was like no other this country had seen, even in wartime," he said.
“For 27 years there’s been one party that’s been prepared to question the establishment and challenge authority and tonight more than ever that force is still needed.”