New Zealand First is rebooting with two reviews being conducted into what went wrong at last year’s election and the party’s constitution.

The old caucus, including Tracey Martin and Jenny Marcroft, who recently ended their membership with the party, gathered at Shane Jones’ annual Waitangi party in Kerikeri last night.

Leader Winston Peters was there in a rare public appearance since the party was knocked out of Parliament, but kept mostly out of sight sitting to the side of the main gathering keeping a low profile.

It was a much more low-key affair in general, with only MPs who had personally been invited in attendance.

Nobody from the National Party was there, nor was the Prime Minister, who has attended previously.

The Greens’ co-leader James Shaw made the list, as did a number of Labour MPs including David Parker, Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson.

Peters’ path back to Parliament

New Zealand First went from kingmaker at the 2017 election, putting it in a position to negotiate with both National and Labour, to goneburger at the 2020 election after only gaining 2.6 percent of the vote.

Former MPs and members of the party have raised questions since the disastrous result as to what went so wrong during the campaign.

Covid-19 and the alert level restrictions, including the delay after a second Auckland lockdown, worked against New Zealand First – a party that traditionally relies on big town hall meetings and gatherings to electioneer.

One former MP described it as New Zealand First spending too much time governing, and failing to spend the time necessary to get re-elected.

Since then the party has set up two sub-committees to take a “warts-and-all” look at New Zealand First’s downfall.

One is reviewing the entire election campaign up until the results rolled in, while the other is taking a wider look at the party’s constitution.

Both of those reviews will be tabled at a New Zealand First convention to be held in Auckland on June 19-20.

The full membership will be invited and the “plaster will be ripped off’’ Newsroom was told.

Former MP Darroch Ball, who was on the bus during the two-month campaign slog with Peters, is the new party president.

He told Newsroom the party’s reboot will be led by the grassroots members, whose commitment to the party had continued in strength since last year’s defeat.

If New Zealand First can regroup and return to Parliament in 2023 it wouldn’t be the first time.

Peters and his party were short of the votes necessary in 2008 and spent three years in the wilderness rebuilding before returning in 2011 with 6.5 percent of the vote.

Peters will be 78 by the time the next election rolls around but all signs are pointing to him staying with the party and taking a lead role in the comeback fight.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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