Key Points:

John Key will this afternoon meet with deputy leader Bill English and senior MP Gerry Brownlee to discuss the make-up of his new National-led government.

Mr Key had already cut deals before the election to form a coalition with Act and United Future. The three parties, together, won 65 seats - enough to give them a majority in a 122-seat Parliament.

However, he is preparing to build a government of all colours, as he reaches across the political divide to work with not just Act and United Future, but also the Maori Party and the Greens.

Mr English and Mr Brownlee will fly to Auckland for a meeting with Mr Key that is expected to be part-congratulations and part getting down to the serious business of establishing a government.

Mr Key is then expected front a press conference to outline his plans for the next weeks.

In brief

* National secured 45.5% of party vote
* National won 59 seats, Act 5 (up from 2) and United Future 1 - a 65 seat majority
* Labour won 33.8% of party vote and 43 seats
* Helen Clark resigned as Labour Party leader
* The Greens were the only minor party to cross 5% threshold with 6.4% of party vote
* Unsuccessful Tauranga candidate Winston Peters resigned after NZ First failed to reach 5%
* The Maori Party won five of seven Maori seats - up one from last Parliament
* Auckland swung most strongly towards National and Wellington the least. National took Christchurch from Labour for the first time since at least 1996
* Labour also dropped in the provincial seats

Act first up

The first of National's major talks are expected to be with Act which polled 3.72 percent of the party vote - up on their 2005 results.

Rodney Hide's electorate success in Epsom boosted the party's numbers in Parliament from two to five, including the party founder Sir Roger Douglas.

Rodney Hide said he had had no substantial negotiations about what role he and Act might play in a future National-led government but he would meet Key, a meeting likely to be held today.

Act's resurgence has prompted a stark warning from Phil Goff, the man tipped to succeed Clark before Christmas as leader of the Labour Party in opposition.

He said: "It looks like a rather more right-wing party in government that what John Key might have had us believe."

Maori Party role

The Maori Party will today gather to discuss how it could have a relationship with the new Government.

National does not need the Maori Party to govern but Mr Key will extend his "hand of multi-partisanship" to the party in the knowledge that he may need its MPs later in the Parliamentary term.

He has said he wants to talk to the party early next week.

"Because I've always argued I want to build a long-term government and I believe that we actually can have a relationship with the Maori Party which long term can be very important for National," Mr Key said.

Maori Party candidates will meet in Auckland today to discuss their next move.

Co-leader Pita Sharples said the Maori Party would consider all their options before going into talks with other parties, despite the fact National does not need them to govern.

"And then we will offer our portfolio to them and say 'that's us - and what do you reckon?'

"And get a response from them, because we want them to want us."

Dr Sharples has said he remains hopeful of a ministerial position for the party.

Clark resigns

New Zealand voted for a change of direction, and a change of generation.

Helen Clark, acknowledged by friends and foes alike as one of the country's strongest-ever leaders, last night announced her resignation as leader of the Labour Party.

After nine years as Prime Minister and 15 years as leader of her party, her defeat had seemed inevitable in the final days.

"Tonight has not been our night," she told devoted supporters in inner-city Auckland. "In politics we all experience the highs and the lows.

"I have experienced both in my political career. Tonight is a night for the winners to savour, but we won't be going away.

"I will be standing down. It's over and out from me."

Vote for change

Key faces a weighty responsibility: he will take the premiership as the country enters what could be its worst recession in decades.

But he said that New Zealanders had voted for hope, for action and for results.

"New Zealand has spoken. Hundreds of thousands across the country, they have voted for change.

"Thank you for your support, and thank you for your trust. I talked about when I was a boy in a state house, riding my bike past the houses of people more fortunate than me.

"What inspired me then, and still inspires me today, is the belief within ourselves that we have the ability to make our lives better.

"And as it is for individuals, so it is for our country. Because New Zealand has so much more potential. This is not as good as it gets."

Key has vowed to move urgently to inject life back into the failing economy by investing millions of dollars in roads, school building and broadband internet cables.

And he intends to pass legislation before Christmas to cut income taxes by $16 billion in April.

More than 1000 people welcomed the Prime Minister-elect and his wife Bronagh to a glittering party at SkyCity's grand convention centre in the centre of Auckland.

Peters exits

It was a night that also ended another of New Zealand's most significant political careers.

Winston Peters, the charismatic and mercurial New Zealand First leader, and the country's longest-serving MP, failed to win back his Tauranga electorate, or to get his party over the 5 per cent threshold required by the MMP electoral system.

His resignation speech was gracious and emotional. Peters told supporters the vote was about democracy.

"It has been a great experience, a tremendous experience. To all of you, you have my eternal gratitude.

Mike Williams, the president of the Labour Party, agreed, and wished Key good luck: "Things are not going well for this country."

Labour lost some of its most senior MPs - tourism and rural affairs minister Damien O'Connor, Auckland Central MP Judith Tizard, as well as Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa and Martin Gallagher.

As Labour licked its wounds, John Key retired home for a good night's sleep, before today beginning the process of building a new Government. He has indicated he will be joined in Cabinet by former National leader Bill English, as Finance Minister, and Tony Ryall, as Health Minister.

Cabinet line-up

Act's leader Rodney Hide is likely to seek responsibility in Cabinet for local government, and for a regulatory review of red tape.

Sir Roger Douglas, 70, the architect of the 1980s Rogernomics free market reforms also returns to Parliament as an Act MP - but Key has said he will not sit around the Cabinet table.

That remains a moot point - Sir Roger said that such decisions could not be made until after the election.

Sir Roger, who was shocked by the state of the nation's finances when he entered Government after the 1984 snap election, said he too was concerned about New Zealand's financial position, and he did not believe the severity of the problems had been recognised.

"I think John Key is in for a bit of a shock tomorrow."

Key was greeted by rapturous crowds as he left his home to drive into central Auckland.

With much of the hope for propping up the economy resting in the commercial powerhouse of Auckland, the city's mayor John Banks was waiting at SkyCity for Key.

National is promising to continue with the $1 billion plan to electrify the city's commuter rail network, complete the North Shore to Manukau motorway network, and has signalled sympathy for the "super city" proposal in saying that regional infrastructure needs to be dealt with regionally.

Peter Dunne, the United Future leader, remains in Parliament as a one-man band - but has also been guaranteed a seat in Cabinet, should he want it.

He is being tipped to continue as revenue minister, a role he has performed for Helen Clark, and rejected speculation that he would accept the role of Speaker.