Former Tauranga MP Winston Peters believes New Zealand First is on track to return to Parliament after next year's general election.
Mr Peters was today fizzing with enthusiasm after the "very successful" party convention in Christchurch at the weekend, and is firmly on the comeback trail.
"We have worked very hard over the last two years to rebuild and get ready for 2011," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.
"The enthusiasm of the people there [at the convention] gives us enormous heart for 2011. There's a lot of work required in the future, obviously. If we keep up this momentum it will look very good for 2011."
It was announced last year that Mr Peters would not stand again as a candidate in the Tauranga seat, which he held from from 1984 to 2005.
Mr Peters was defeated in the last election by National newcomer Simon Bridges, and the party failed to reach the 5 per cent threshold to get into Parliament. The party has been on the hunt for a new candidate for the Tauranga electorate for more than a year, and Mr Peters said a decision was likely to be made early next year.
"The party is looking at a whole range of candidates. We are yet to make decision on that."
Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty had always been a "strong area of support" for the party, as had the whole area from Coromandel to Whakatane.
"The party invested "quite a bit of time" in attending meetings in the area, he said. At the party convention, Mr Peters criticised both National and the previous Labour governments for following the "same half-baked economic theories based on a discredited, free-market ideology".
He singled out foreshore and seabed legislation, concessions made by National over ensuring The Hobbit movies stayed in New Zealand, and the faltering economy, while noting a recent change in direction from Labour.
Mr Peters said Labour was established by trade unionists to improve the lot of ordinary workers, but had drifted away from that core principle. Mr Peter gave attendees a run-down on New Zealand First's plan to lead the country back to prosperity.
Read our editorial.