12.20pm: All of the 2,014,334 party votes cast have been counted.
The National Party received 957,768 votes (down from 1,053,398 three years ago), giving it 47.99 per cent of the vote, and 60 seats in Parliament.
Labour's vote was decimated from 2008, getting only 541,499 votes (down from 796,880 in 2008).
Labour's 27.13 per cent will give them 34 seats in Parliament.
The Green Party saw their vote increase from 6.72 to 10.62 per cent, receiving 211,931 party votes and 13 seats.
Cast into oblivion after getting 4.07 per cent three years ago, New Zealand First are back, with their 6.81 per cent giving Winston Peters' party eight seats.
The Maori Party have won three electorates, but only obtained 1.07 per cent of the party vote.
Act got only 1.07 per cent, Mana scored only 1 per cent and United Future received only 0.61 per cent, but each party will get one seat in Parliament after winning electorate seats.
Of those parties who have not won a seat in Parliament, the Conservatives got the biggest share. The brand-new party captured 2.76 per cent of the vote, but with leader Colin Craig failing to win the Rodney seat their hopes of getting into the House have been dashed.
The next highest share of the vote went to the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 0.48 per cent, the Democrats for Social Credt and the Libertarianz both got 0.07 per cent and the Alliance Party obtained 0.05 per cent.
12.02am: With 100 per cent of the 284,312 advance votes counted in the referendum, 53.89 per cent are keen for MMP to be retained, while 42.46 per cent would like the system changed, and 3.65 per cent cast informal votes.
Asked which system voters would prefer should MMP be abandoned, 31.76 per cent opted for First Past the Post, 14.48 per cent chose Supplementary Member, 11.27 per cent picked Single Transferable Votes and 8.21 per cent chose Preferential Votes, while a whopping 34.29 per cent cast informal votes.
11.42pm: "I always said it would be tight," John Key told supporters tonight.
"What I can tell you is for another three years there will be a National-led Government in New Zealand.
Mr Key said the public's votes were an endorsement of the National Party and their policies.
He said the party had been given a "tremendous gift" - the "trust and good will of New Zealanders".
Mr Key said he had spoken to United Future's Peter Dunne, Act's Don Brash and the Maori Party's Tariana Turia tonight, and would be talking to them over the coming days about arrangements for the future Government.
Mr Key paid tribute to his Labour Party rival.
"Phil Goff was very generous," he said. "He's a hard working parliamentarian and he has always had New Zealand's best interest at heart.
The Prime Minister thanked his supporters and told them to enjoy the night.
"I'm about to head off for something a little stronger than a cup of tea."
11.33pm: John Key has arrived at his victory party to the strains of The Feelers' Stand up and be Counted and cheers of "three more years".
11.28pm: Mana Party leader Hone Harawira has held off Labour's Kelvin Davis to retain Te Tai Tokerau.
Mr Harawira took 7139 votes, compared with Mr Davis on 6265. The Maori Party's Waihoroi Shortland had also been expected to put up a strong challenge but attracted only 2705 votes.
Asked what his first priority was, Mr Harawira said: "It's to feed the children.''
Mr Harawira's election party was held in Kaitaia's Bank Street, where supporters tonight welcomed Mr Harawira with a powhiri followed by a stirring haka.
"Our campaign has been run as a war on poverty,'' he told TV3. "It's nice to come back here and occupy Bank Street.''
About 200 people attended the street party, which supporters closing the street with logs and cones. A truck and trailer unit served as a stage on what has been a chilly night in the winterless north.
Mana attracted fewer than 20,000 party votes, leaving Mr Harawira its sole MP.
11.14pm: Special votes will separate Christchurch Central, and may also prove to be the difference a handful of other seats.
In Auckland Central National's Nikki Kaye has a 535 majority over Labour's Jacinda Ardern, and National's Kate Wilkinson has a 395 vote lead over Labour's Clayton Cosgrove in Waimakariri.
In other closer races, National's Paula Bennett has a 719 vote lead over Labour's Carmel Sepuloni in Waitakere (with 98.1 per cent of the vote in), the Maori Party's Pita Sharples has a 742 vote lead over Labour's Shane Jones in Tamaki Makaurau, and Mana's Hone Harawira has a 799 lead over Labour's Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau.
11.07pm: Labour leader Phil Goff has indicated he will step down as Labour leader, saying last night that he has made a decision about his future but would not discuss it publicly until he had met with caucus members next Tuesday.
11.05pm: So how does this result compare to the polls?
The last Herald Digipoll came out on Friday and was very close to the final result on the night.
Here it is with the election result first and the DigiPoll second.
National 48.04 (election) 50.9 (DigiPoll)
Labour 27.08 (election) 28 (DigiPoll)
Greens 10.6 (election) 11.8 (DigiPoll)
NZ First 6.8 (election) 5.2 (DigiPoll)
Act 1.08 (election) 1.8 (DigiPoll)
Conservative 2.76 (election) 1.3 (DigiPoll)
Maori Party 1.36 (election) 0.4 (DigiPoll)
Mana 0.98 (election) 0.3 (DigiPoll)
United Future 0.6 (election) 0 (DigiPoll)
11.00pm: Labour leader Phil Goff has called John Key and conceded.
Mr Goff has thanked New Zealanders who "kept the faith", his wife for her support, and the party's members.
He celebrated the fact there were new Labour MPs entering Parliament, but said with "sadness and regret" some colleagues would not be returning.
Mr Goff said in a democracy the public decide who represent them and he respected that decision.
"It wasn't our time this time, but we are members of a great political party," he said.
"Our time will come again and we will be reader to take New Zealand forward at that time."
Mr Goff said the party's supporters can hold their heads high.
10.58pm: It's a dead heat in Christchurch Central, with both Nicky Wagner and Brendon Burns registering 10,493 votes.
10.48pm: The battle for Christchurch Central is likely to head to counts of the special votes.
With just one polling booth still to report, Labour's Brendon Burns is leading by just 12 votes.
The seat, traditionally a Labour seat, has seen a titanic struggle between Burns and National's Nicky Wagner.
10.46pm: With 98.6 per cent of the vote counted, National has 48.05 per cent of the vote. Labour trails with 27.08 per cent, followed by the Greens on 10.59 per cent, and New Zealand First 6.8 per cent.
If results stay the same, National will have 60 seats, Labour will have 34 seats, the Greens will have 13 seats, New Zealand First will have eight seats, the Maori Party will have three, Mana will have one, United Future will have one and Act will have one.
10.45pm: Don Brash has announced that he will step down as Act Party leader tomorrow.
10.40pm: Nikki Kaye has just declared a victory in Auckland Central.
"I want to thank everybody tonight for all the hard work they have done because I want to declare right now that I am the Member of Parliament for Auckland Central," she told a gathering of supporters in the Viaduct's Foodstore.
10.39pm: Don Brash, the Act leader - for the time being anyway - has thanked his party's supporters.
"Despite all the commentators, all the polls, all the media, we did it. You did it, John Banks did it, the people of Epsom did it.
"I want to thanks John Banks, he did a fantastic job."
While Act will survive in Parliament through John Banks, it appears very unlikely Brash, or any other Act members, will join him in Parliament.
10.37pm: "It's an unmitigated disaster."
Former Labour Party president, Mike Williams, has spoken out over the low polling of the party in the 2011 election.
He said that the 27 per cent party vote for Labour - among its lowest polling results ever - is a disaster for the party. Among the casualties are a range of Labour stalwarts including Stuart Nash, the Labour candidate in Napier, an icon of the party whose grandfather was the great Walter Nash, Labour PM after World War 2.
"This is a terrible night for Labour," said Williams.
10.36pm: National is set to govern for a second term but not alone.
It will again need support partners either, United Future's one, Act's one or the Maori Party's three, to reach 61 votes - a majority in what provisionally looks set to be a 121 seat Parliament.
National increased its numbers by two, which will be a disappointment to the party given its commanding lead in the polls throughout the whole of its first term.
Act has been decimated from five to just one MP.
The Maori Party has lost one seat.
10.29pm: Over on TVNZ's Election Special, Petra Bagust has been asked to extemporise.
She is on the roof of the TVNZ building with a cross-section of voters at a mock party.
"Who here voted Labour?" she chirrups.
One lone hand emerges in the crowd, the face obscured by a group of Mana supporters.
"Yes, well," says Petra, like a disapproving school mistress.
"Let's go talk to the National supporters." And instead turns her back on the recalcitrant silenced Labour voter and heads to the happy Nats.
10.26pm: Asked about the future leadership of the Act Party if its leader Dr Don Brash did not get into Parliament, Epsom candidate John Banks said that was a matter for the party board to decide.
10.25pm: Excitement is growing at Labour's Waitakere candidate Carmel Sepuloni's base in Glen Eden.
While Ms Seploni just wants the wait to be over close to 100 supporters are confident she will take the Waitakere seat from National's Paula Bennett.
When one supporter yells out that she is 371 votes ahead the crowd went wild cheering and yelling in encouragement.
Ms Sepuloni's father Faatalii Kamisi, whom she has referred to at candidate meetings as being a huge support, is one of many cheering her on tonight.
"I feel vey happy, we have been waiting a long time for this," he told the Herald. "I must be the proudest dad in the world."
The latest results have put Ms Bennett back in the lead, by 9724 votes to Ms Seploni's 8991.
10.20pm: Despite all polls in recent weeks indicating National's Paul Goldsmith would take Epsom, Act's John Banks has taken the pivotal seat.
"We're back," Banks told TVNZ.
Banks thanked his supporters, in particular Act on Campus for their work during the campaign.
The former National MP has a majority of 2,682 over Goldsmith, with 93.6 per cent of the vote counted.
10.18pm: Labour has judged nudged ahead in the counting of the Christchurch Central seat.
With over 90 per cent vote counted, Labour's Brendon Burns has just nudged ahead by a mere four votes. If that vote trend continues, Burns will be sitting on the slimmest majority in the country.
National's Nicky Wagner has been ahead for most of the night.
10.17pm: Some of the safest National seats have just declared.
Bill English has held Clutha-Southland by a 14,915 majority - similar to that in 2008.
Tony Ryall has once again held Bay of Plenty, this time with a majority of 16,720.
10.14pm: Green Party co-leader Russel Norman told party supporters the party had aimed for 10 per cent and had "exceeded" those expectations.
"We have increased our party vote by more than 50 per cent."
With 10.59 per cent of the vote with 94.7 per cent of the vote counted, and special votes are likely to see to see that percentage increase.
"We will use those 13 or 14 MPs in order to make New Zealand a better place."
Norman said the party will keep Government accountable and will push for green change.
10.12pm: Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said he was "delighted" to have re-claimed the electorate.
The young MP has clearly won a second term in the seat after sitting at more than 91 per cent ahead of NZ First's Brendan Horan with a margin of more than 11,000 votes.
Tauranga's Labour candidate, Deborah Mahuta-Coyle, has phoned to concede.
"I'm very happy with how the results have gone and I've had a fantastic team behind me."
10.08pm: The mood at the National Party HQ is subdued rather than jubilant as strategists wait to see how hard or easy it will be for National to govern.
And all indications are that National will govern with only a small majority along with present support partners Act and United Future.
10.05pm: Act's John Banks looks set to take Epsom, giving National an important coalition option. With 80.9 per cent of the vote counted, Banks has a 2,364 vote lead over National's Paul Goldsmith.
While many National voters clearly voted tactically, not enough left wing voters appear to have done the same. Labour's David Parker has 2,291 votes, which together with the 1,216 the Greens David Hay has received would have been enough to get rid of Act had they voted for Goldsmith instead.
Banks has arrived at his Barry Court Motor Inn headquarters in Parnell.
10.03pm: Peter Dunne has once again held his Ohariu-Belmont seat, returning his United Future party to Parliament and providing National a possible coalition partner.
But he has spoken of his surprise at the strong showing of Winston Peter's New Zealand First party.
"Yes that is a huge surprise.
"I suspect it is a surprise born out of the cup of tea," he said, referring to the staged meeting of Act's John Banks and Prime Minsiter John Key to signal their intentions in Epsom. The subsequent fallout gave the chance to Mr Peters to attack National over his claims Mr Key disparated elderly New Zealand First voters.
"New Zealand First wasn't a goer until then.
"But Winston is back. This is a democracy and it takes all sorts."
10.02pm: Jacinda Ardern and her supporters continually check the latest vote count on their cellphones as the gap to her National Party rival, Nikki Kaye, ebbs and flows.
A steady stream of drinks and pizza at the Golden Dawn bar in Ponsonby have made the cheers progressively louder.
"Seventy-three!" an Ardern supporter announces at one narrowing result.
But as the gap widens to 300, Ardern offers a reminder that the Grey Lynn booths are yet to be counted.
10.00pm: All the regular votes are now in Invercargill. National's Eric Roy has taken the seat comfortably, with a majority of 5766. Roy won 16,156 votes, followed by Labour's Lesley Sober with 10,390, and the Greens' David Kennedy on 2150.
9.58pm: At this stage, it looks like the Green-Labour vote is significantly down on 2008.
With 86 per cent of the vote counted, Labour are polling around 27 per cent of the vote and the Greens 11 per cent.
In contrast in 2008, Labour polled 34 per cent and the Greens 7 per cent.
This means that the Green-Labour alliance is down two per cent in this election.
9.55pm: A legend of New Zealand music reckons Dr Pita Sharples knows how to party.
Carl Perkins, 53, is the rythym guitarist for House of Shem - the reggae band keeping things light at Dr Sharples' election night gathering at Manurewa Marae.
Mr Perkins is an original Herbs member and has known Dr Sharples for 30 years. Decades ago he remembers the politician bringing reggae viynal back from his time in Europe.
"He shared that music with us, he fell in love with it and bought it back. He's a good man to party with, he's got a big heart. I don't know anyone who doesn't like him."
Mr Perkins is a Ratana morehu, follower.
He wouldn't say if he'd voted for Dr Sharples.
"I'm more here to show whanau support."
9.51pm: And we have our first final result.
All votes have been counted in the Napier electorate, where incumbent Chris Tremain has held the seat but with a majority cut by more than 6000 votes. He has won the seat by 3,382 seats from Labour's Stuart Nash.
9.50pm: Winston Peters has pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in New Zealand political history. The New Zealand First leader has just arrived to the applause from his supporters at their election night party.
With 84.5 per cent of the party vote counted, New Zealand First have 6.78 per cent, which would give them eight seats.
Peters said it had been a "most extraordinary campaign", with other parties spending "more than 4000 times what New Zealand First spent in this campaign".
He said the party had been "marginalised, stigmatised and even demonised", and had faced a media "blackout". The party's return to Parliament speaks to the "character" of its supporters for continuing to believe in the party.
Peters said he had told voters in the campaign that "help is on the way".
"Today it has arrived."
Peters was also pleased MMP was winning the referendum.
"It's great that MMP is winning tonight, because it is by far the fairest system available to us."
9.44pm: Waitakere Labour candidate Carmel Sepuloni, who is up against National's Paula Bennett, is too nervous to watch the results coming in on television. Instead she is standing outside greeting friends, family and supporters who are gathering at Ceramco Park Community Centre in Glen Eden.
Miss Sepuloni spent her day coordinating supporters who were out encouraging people to vote.
She said Waitakere had a low voter turnout last election so it was vital as many people as possible voted today. She believes the vote will be close again this time as it was last election, but she is also quietly confident.
"I am feeling optomistice about the result, but whatever the result, I know we have done everything we possibly could have done. I will just wait and see what happens and regardless of the outcome, we will celebrate here tonight because we have fought a very hard fight."
9.42pm: Iain Lees-Galloway is cruising towards a convincing win in Palmerston North, the only provincial city set held by Labour.
The Labour candidate is leading National's Leonie Hapeta by a convincing 2500 vote majority with more than three quarters of the vote counted.
But the news isn't so good for Labour in the party vote.
There National has garnered a significant lead in Palmerston North over Labour.
9.38pm: Labour candidate David Parker has refused to say if he will back Phil Goff staying on as leader after the election.
Mr Parker is among those waiting at Labour's campaign night headquarters in Mt Roskill and is a contender as the next Labour leader.
Asked if he would support Mr Goff staying on as leader next week, he said he did not want to address that tonight.
"Tonight's not the night for that. I want to reflect on what's happened and I want to give Phil the dignity he deserves."
He said it was up to Mr Goff whether he resigned or not "but I certainly won't be demanding it."
9.36pm: The special votes, cast by residents outside their electorate, may play a crucial part in the political battle for Christchurch.
Former Labour Party president Mike Williams believes that Labour supporters may have disproportionately left their homes to find work after the February 22 earthquake.
If they vote, they will have to do so using a "special vote", which are usually counted after election night.
That could mean close results in Christchurch - like Christchurch Central where National's Nicky Wagner is just ahead by 667 votes with over half of the votes counted - could be in the balance after tonight.
9.31pm: With 94.9 per cent of advance votes in the referendum counted, 53.8 per cent want MMP kept, while 42.6 per cent would like the system to change.
Of the other voting systems, 31.84 per cent would like FPP if MMP is ditched, 14.51 per cent want SM, 11.28 per cent want STV, and 8.24 PV.
9.24pm: Christchurch MP and senior National minister, Gerry Brownlee, has dismissed the idea that the swing to National in Christchuch may be due to Labour supporters leaving the city to to seek work after the earthquake.
"Let's wait to look at the total vote," he told TVNZ's Election Special.
He believed it was partly recognition for the Government's work in rebuilding the city stricken by the earthquake on February 22.
"We've tried to be as fair and responsible as we can and as generous as we can to those people devastated by this event.
"But the recovery is going much faster than many of our competitors like to concede.
"There is a recovery under way in Canterbury and it's an export-led recovery."
9.23pm: With more than half the vote counted, National have dipped below the 50 per cent mark.
With 56.2 per cent of the vote counted, National sit on 49.20 per cent, Labour are on 26.04 per cent, the Greens are 10.51 per cent, and New Zealand First are on 6.82 per cent.
If those results stay the same, National will not be able to govern alone, and will rely on either Act or United Future getting back into Parliament.
9.21pm: With little more than a quarter of the vote the counted an air of jubilation is already taking hold at the Greens co-leaders' election night party in Auckland as strong polling in the lead up to the election appears to have carried through to the voting booths.
To loud cheers, actor Robyn Malcolm the MC at tonight's party, has just announced that on votes counted so far, the Greens will have five new MPs.
They include former Environment Canterbury Councillor Eugenie Sage, Jan Logie, Steffan Browning, Denise Roche who is contesting the Auckland Central seat and Holly Walker. Mt Roskill candidate Julie Anne Genter is "a gnat's breath" away, Ms Malcolm said.
"Not bad for a bunch of hippies, eh?" she told the crowd of about 300 at St Kevin's Arcade on Aucklankd's Karangahape Road.
9.19pm: The seat of Wigram in Christchurch is another which is emerging as an example of the Christchurch earthquake political volatility.
Wigram, once a stronghold of Progressive party leader and former Labour leader Jim Anderton, has registered a surprisingly strong vote for National.
With over half of the vote counted, National is leading in the party vote there.
However, its candidate Sam Collins is trailing Labour's Megan Woods by around 1,000 votes.
This is a surprisingly strong vote in what had been a staunchly left-leaning seat
9.15pm: The Epsom electorate race continues to close up, with Act's John Banks leading by only 170 votes over National's Paul Goldsmith with 17 per cent of the vote counted.
9.10pm: Neither John Key and Phil Goff will face the embarrassment of losing their own seats tonight.
In Helensville, Key leads by 6142 over Labour's Piers Jeremy Greenbrook-Held with 36 per cent of the vote counted. In Mt Roskill, the Labour leader leads by 1468 over National's Jackie Blue with 19.4 per cent counted.
9.09pm: New Plymouth, considered by many commentators to be a possible close call, is looking safe for National.
Jonathan Young is leading the provincial city seat with a majority of 2578 after 47.8 per cent of the votes counted.
He is leading Andrew Little, a leading trade unionist who has been spoken of as a possible Labour leader of the future.
At this stage of the night, the race is not looking close.
9.08pm: A brightly dressed Tony Ryall, on track to easily retain National's Bay of Plenty seat, was among 150 supporters in a bar at the fittingly chosen Fashion Island shopping complex.
"Its all very positive, we're having a great result here in the Bay of Plenty."
9.06pm: About 60 Act supporters have gathered at the Barry Court Motor Inn in Parnell to watch the Epsom results come in.
There was general frustration among the supporters at the slow results in Epsom.
At 9pm only 10.6 per cent of the vote had been countered, but Act candidate John Banks was leading National's Paul Goldsmith by 325 votes.
9.05pm: Winston is back, or at least that is what it looks like, with close to a quarter of the vote counted.
Peters' New Zealand First Party is currently polling at 6.8 per cent of the electorate vote with around 22 per cent of the total vote counted. That would give Peters around eight possible seats in Parliament.
Appearing on the TVNZ Election special, nzherald blogger David Farrar said it seemed a certainty that Peters had lifted his party above the five per cent threshold.
"There is no doubt that New Zealand First is back," he said.
And was that a good thing for National, asked the ever debonair Guyon Espiner.
"Put it this way. It's great for us bloggers have Winston to write about," shot back Farrar.
9.03pm: The earthquake vote in Christchurch may well emerge as one of the key aspects of the 2011 election.
Two of the closest run seats tonight are in Christchurch, traditionally a left-leaning city.
Waimakariri, on the outskirts of the city, is on a knife edge.
National's Kate Wilkinson is leading incumbent Clayton Cosgrove by just 573 votes with 44 per cent of the vote counted.
And in Christchurch Central, a Labour seat, National's Nicky Wagner is leading Brendon Burns by 493 votes with 30 per cent of the votes counted.
One possible explanation for the strong showing of National is that some of the traditional Labour supporters have had to shift away from the city to get work after the destruction wrought by the earthquake on February 22.
8.58pm: Only 77 votes separate National's Nikki Kaye and Labour's Jacinda Ardern in Auckland Central. With 22 per cent counted, Kaye is leading with 2,649 votes to 2,572.
"It's pretty close," Ardern told TVNZ. "We always though it would be close.
"We won't know until the final vote. We're really pleased with where we are at the moment."
8.53pm: With 27.9 per cent of the vote counted, the right have it. National could govern alone, with 62 seats. On National's side of the House, United Future and Act could offer one seat each.
A left-bloc would have only 57 seats, with 32 Labour, 13 Greens, eight New Zealand First, three Maori and one Mana.
8.49pm: The Mana Party's Auckland election night party has all the atmosphere of a religious revival movement in Mangere tonight.
New Zealand, Tino Rangatiratanga and Samoan flags are flying alongside Mana flags outside the Kia Maia Ratana Church in Robertson Road.
Only a handful of people are watching the election results on television in one corner, while the party's Auckland candidates thank about 100 supporters for their campaign work.
8.46pm: Waitakere is see-sawing between the incumbent Paula Bennett and Labour's Carmel Sepuloni. National's Bennett has a 39 vote majority over Sepuloni with 7.7 per cent of the vote counted.
8.37pm: National continue to flirt with the magic 50 per cent line. With 14 per cent of the vote, National has 50.51 per cent of the vote.
Whether they will keep over the mark, which will likely mean they can govern alone, is anyone's guess, but the party usually does start strongly as the votes come in, only to see it slip as the night progresses.
Labour sit at 25.55 per cent, the Greens have 10.11 per cent and New Zealand First have 6.65 per cent.
8.34pm: Christchurch Central, which saw much of its population displaced due to the earthquakes, may be set to switch from Labour to National.
The Labour safe seat was won by Brendan Burns with a margin of 935 in 2008, but with 15 per cent of the vote counted Burns trail's National's Nicky Wagner by 283 votes.
Christchurch East looks much more comfortable for Labour, with Lianne Dalziel leading by 1,132 over National's Aaron Gilmore with 14.5 per cent of the vote counted.
8.31pm: The New Zealand First party is getting strong party vote support in its old heartland areas of Tauranga, a seat formerly held by its leader Winston Peters, and Bay of Plenty.
In both seats the National candidates, Simon Bridges and Tony Ryall, are leading easily.
But New Zealand First are getting a higher share of the party vote, edging out Labour so far to be the second most popular party.
In both seats, barely 10 per cent of the vote has been counted.
8.30pm: Labour's Epsom candidate David Parker says he is not surprised by the early lead Act's candidate John Banks has in the Epsom seat.
With 9.8 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Banks is leading by 401 votes.
Mr Parker said he expected Mr Banks' majority would be much reduced from that secured by Rodney Hide in 2008.
"It's what I expected. The tea party was an absolute disaster overall for the National Party but nonetheless in Epsom it sent a pretty strong signal that National wanted them to vote Act. In the last week I thought it was likely that they'd get him over."
8.27pm: Early poll results are making happy reading for National Party supporters who have begun gathering at the party'selection night headquarters at Sky City in Auckland.
About 1000 are expected to turn out to the event, which Prime Minister John Key will join later in the evening.
National campaign spokesman Steven Joyce arrived shortly before 8pm, and said the results were looking good.
"It's an encourging early start, but it is very early days and I don't want to take too much from it yet," he said.
"We're conscious we often start out a little start a bit higher and come back a little bit, and we've always been conscious that topping the 45 [per cent] we got last time was always going to be a huge challenge, so we'll just have to wait and see."
8.25pm: Coromandel National candidate Scott Simpson is on his way to a gathering of party faithful at the Paeroa West Rugby Club.
"We should have about 100 along and are looking forward to a good night."
In Thames, Greens MP Catherine Delahunty was hosting an election night party at a local squash club.
"We are feeling pretty positive about it all so far, especially with the party vote."
8.23pm: So far, there has been strong support for the fledgling Conservative party.
While it is very early in the election counting, the Conservative party has garnered 2.41 per cent of the party vote.
With just 7.9 per cent of the vote counted, that puts them ahead of Act, Mana and Maori party in the race stakes so far.
But the party's only real hope of getting into Parliament is that leader Colin Craig can win the Rodney electorate, however with 8.3 per cent of the vote counted Craig trails National's Mark Mitchell by 218 votes.
8.22pm: Tauranga's Green Party candidate, Ian McLean, said his Avenues house was now crowded with supporters, "most of them glued to the TV".
"We're eating up large, drinking up large, and hoping for a happy night."
But the evening was a bit more subdued for Hamilton East's Pirate Party candidate Bruce Kingsbury.
"I'm just sitting here watching TV... very boring. I haven't got anything special planned tonight."
Hamilton West Labour candidate Sue Moroney is with about 40 other supporters at a function in the city.
"We've got the red flags out, the red balloons, and we've done everything we can do at this point in the campaign - now we're hoping for a good result."
8.19pm: National's party vote has dipped below 50 percent, with 7.1 per cent of the vote counted. National sit on 49.89 per cent, Labour trail with 26.28 per cent of the vote, the Greens are on 10.07 per cent, and New Zealand First are on 6.74 per cent.
8.18pm: In the key Canterbury seat of Waimakariri there may be a hint of utu in the air this election.
In 2008, the seat was held by Clayton Cosgrove over National's Kate Wilkinson.
Early results show that Wilkinson is ahead - just by 220 votes - with 13 per cent of the vote counted.
Interestingly, there is no Act candidate standing in the seat, leaving the right vote to swing behind Ms Wilkinson.
8.15pm: With 93.1 per cent of advance votes counted in the referendum, keeping MMP remains the favoured option.
Of the 262,907 votes counted, 54 per cent believe the system should be retained and 42.29 per cent say it should be ditched.
Of the other options, First Past the Post is the most popular, with 31.68 per cent, followed by Supplementary Member on 14.48 per cent, Single Transferable Vote on 11.36 per cent and Preferential Vote on 8.18 per cent.
8.13pm: St Kevin's Arcade on Auckland's Karangahape Rd, the venue for the Greens' co-leaders' election night party is starting to fill up as the party looks to consolidate its position as New Zealand's third largest Parliamentary presence.
"Tonight we make history" Green Party co-convenor Roland Sapsford has just told the 200 or so supporters here already out of the 400 or so expected.
With a handful of the remaining old guard standing down tonight, should the Greens secure their 15 MPs that would see eight new faces in Parliament for the party.
The party has just been entertained by singer Reb Fountain and her Group and will later hear from list Candidate Saffron Toms and Opshop's Jason Kerrison.
Co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria are expected at 9pm at will address their supporters shortly after that.
8.09pm: New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was quick to dismiss the polls prior to the election, even if they were favourable.
It's early days but Peters will be enjoying his party's current position in the only poll that counts. With 5.5 per cent of the party vote counted, New Zealand First sits on 6.68 per cent of the vote, which will see the party returned to Parliament.
8.08pm: Palmerston North is the only provincial city electorate seat held by Labour.
And again tonight it is looking like a cliff hanger.
With just eight per cent of the vote counted, the Labour incumbent Iain Lees-Galloway (1610) is just ahead of National's Leonie Hapeta (1534).
This is shaping as one of the closest races in the 2011 election.
8.05pm: In Tauranga, NZ First candidate Brendan Horan is marking election night with a party at the Greerton RSA, with musicians and rock and roll dancers booked to entertain.
"We're looking to have a good time, with a few election results interspersed."
The area's incumbent National MPs - Tauranga's Simon Bridges and Bay of Plenty MP Tony Ryall - were hosting events in No.1 The Strand and Rain Bar in Papamoa.
Rotorua's National candidate, incumbent Todd McClay, was on his way to the Rotorua Club at the city's racecourse, where 300 people were already gathered.
"We're anxiously awaiting the counters to come in with the results, and we'll expect to have that by around 9pm tonight," Mr McClay said.
8.04pm: National's Paula Bennett is a narrowly trailing in Labour's Carmel Sepuloni in the Waitakere seat Bennett won in 2008. Sepuloni leads by 39 votes with 7.7 per cent of the vote counted.
8.02pm: Mana's Waiariki candidate - prominent Rotorua and lawyer and Maori activist Annette Sykes - has been spending the evening driving around the electorate to say thank you to her supporters, and doesn't expect to arrive at a Mana party barbecue in Rotorua until 9pm.
Her Maori Party opponent, Te Ururoa Flavell, is meanwhile spending election night at his marae, Te Awahou Marae, in Rotorua, where about 150 whanau and supporters have gathered.
"We're just going to watch it on TV and see the results come in, it's all getting pretty busy."
8.00pm: Labour's Auckland Central candidate Jacinda Ardern is keeping a close eye on early results at a gathering in Ponsonby.
Party supporters have booked out the Golden Dawn bar on Ponsonby Rd, where about 30 people have so far arrived.
The mostly young crowd reacts to the preliminary polls being shown on an outdoor screen - quiet excitement at NZ First's strong showing, shock at John Banks' early lead, and big cheers at the mention of Ardern.
7.58pm: And now it is time for TVNZ to torture Peter Williams, their reporter outside John Key's Parnell home.
"What's happening there?" boomed Mark Sainsbury.
"Not much," reported the never stumped for words Williams. "But there is an election party going on across the road."
He then managed to talk fluently about Key's day, from his coffee over breakfast to voting and the pizza that the Prime Minister is apparently consuming at this minute.
Further analysis on the pizza as it comes to hand.
7.55pm: Labour's Chris Hipkins has a healthy early lead in Rimutaka, despite the seat being tipped to possibly change hands. The incumbent leads National's Jonathan Fletcher by 538 votes with 3.7 per cent of the vote counted.
7.52pm: Auckland Central is another battle which will be followed closely tonight. Labour's Jacinda Ardern will be hoping to win the seat back for her party, but will have to get past National's Nikki Kaye, who won the seat in 2008. With 4 per cent of the vote counted, Kaye leads by 207 votes.
7.49pm: West Coast-Tasman has been tipped to be a tight race, with Labour's Damien O'Connor hoping to knock National's Chris Auchinvole off the seat. Auchinvole is narrowly leading, with a majority of 93 votes with 1 per cent of the vote counted.
7.46pm: Northcote, considered something of a bellwether electorate, is looking likely to be retained by National's Jonathan Coleman. Coleman has a 1335 lead over Labour's Paula Gillon with 10 per cent of the vote counted.
7.43pm: TVNZ reporter Greg Boyed has clearly drawn the short straw for the state broadcaster's election results.
"Let's cross live now," twinkled anchor Simon Dallow. And there was Boyed standing in a field a few hundred metres away from Labour leader Phil Goff's home in Clevedon, near Auckland.
Nothing was happening.
"The cows behind me moved from one side of the paddock to the other," reported Boyed. "We make our own fun out here in the country."
Then it was back to the results. We'll have more on the cow movements as they come to hand.
7.40pm: Labour supporters have begun gathering to watch the election results roll in in Labour leader Phil Goff's Mt Roskill electorate.
Mr Goff's function at the May Road Memorial Hall in Mt Roskill is a far more intimate election night do than usual. However about 65 supporters have arrived and about 150 are expected. Mr Goff is not expected to arrive until the election results are clear, at about 10pm.
Other Labour candidates are also expected to arrive as the night progresses. As well as the ubiquitous club sandwiches, the supporters are being fed on nibbles including samosa, prawn cutlets, chicken tandoori and spring rolls. A pile of donated pizzas were also delivered at the event.
7.35pm: Act, United Future, Mana and the Maori Party will all likely be relying on winning electorate seats to be returned to Parliament. United Future leader Peter Dunne is leading Labour's Charles Chauvel in Ohariu by 192 votes with 5.8 per cent of the vote counted,
Act's John Banks is leading National's Paul Goldsmith in Epsom by 401 votes with 6.4 per cent counted, and Mana's Hone Harawira leads Labour's Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau by 358 votes with 2.8 per cent counted.
The Maori Party's candidates are currently leading in Tamaki Makaurau, Te Tai Hauauru and Waiariki. The Conservatives' Colin Craig is currently trailing National's Mark Mitchell by 218 in Rodney, with 8.3 per cent counted.
7.31pm: TV star Maggie Barry is, as expected, well ahead in the early voting in the safe National seat of North Shore of Auckland.
With 10.3 per cent of the vote counted, Barry has a whopping early lead with 2698 votes. Brash, whose campaigning for Act has been dogged by discussions of his leadership, is well behind with just 138 votes.
7.26pm: With 194,711 votes counted, National is leading with 50.65 per cent, Labour has 26.08 per cent, the Greens have 9.87 per cent, and New Zealand First remain above the 5 per cent threshold, with 6.73 per cent.
The Maori Party will be relying on winning electorate seats, with 1.24 per cent, as will United Future on 0.65 per cent, the Conservative Party on 2.29 per cent, Act on 1.16 per cent and Mana on 0.82 per cent.
7.24pm: It is very early in the evening but the key electorate of Epsom - which could determine if Act gets into Parliament giving National a coalition partner - is already shaping up as fascinating.
With just 4.3% of the vote counted in Epsom, National's Paul Goldsmith is marginally ahead of Act's John Banks. Goldsmith has been campaigning for the party vote, leaving it open for John Banks to take the electorate for Act.
7.19pm: Asked which system they would like to be used should MMP be ditched, 31.81 per cent would like New Zealand to go back to First Past the Post, 8.21 per cent would like Preferential Voting, 11.17 per cent would like Single Transferable Vote, and 14.77 per cent are in favour of Supplementary Member. A whooping 34 per cent of the votes are informal, meaning they are either spoiled, or this question was not answered.
7.15pm: With 117,434 votes counted in the referendum, 53.38 per cent are in favour of keeping MMP, while 43 per cent would like a change. 3.59 per cent of votes are informal.
7.10pm: The first results are in - with 1.3 per cent of the votes counted, National has 51 per cent of the party vote, Labour has 26 per cent, the Greens have 10 per cent and New Zealand First has 6 per cent.
7.09pm: The Electoral Commission is looking into a community radio broadcaster which allegedly ran political content for much of this afternoon.
Access Manawatu has today been broadcasting interviews with party leaders, which were full of opinion and Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden told Newstalk ZB the Electoral Commission was aware of the situation.
7.01pm: Polls have now closed and the huge job of counting the nation's votes is now well underway. Advance election results - including the referendum - are due in about two hours. Election officials expect 50 per cent of results by 10pm, with full results expected before midnight.
6:30pm: Polls close in half an hour, and then the counting begins.
6.13pm: National leader John Key cast his vote at Parnell School this afternoon, while Labour Party leader Phil Goff cast his vote at a school in his Mt Roskill electorate just after the polls opened at 9am.
6.00pm: Welcome to nzherald.co.nz Live Updates. New Zealanders throughout the country have been fufilling their democratic rights by voting for a politcial party and a local candidate, while also voting in a referendum on the way Kiwis will vote.
- Herald online