Key Points:

NZ First insiders hope the party can survive by either reinventing itself around a new personality or by finding a niche as a policy-based party.

Despite being turfed out of Parliament, it remains the country's fourth most popular political party, having gained 88,072 party votes - 10,000 more than Act.

Both were under the 5 per cent threshold but Act leader Rodney Hide's victory in Epsom sees its 3.72 per cent become five seats, while NZ First's 4.1 per cent is worthless.

The party has to deal with the distinct possibility of life without founding leader Winston Peters, who gave an indication he may not lead it into the 2011 election during his concession speech on Saturday night.

NZ First is often described as being nothing without the 63-year-old Mr Peters' strong personal following.

Party sources were yesterday hopeful he would stay on. Others said the party could have a future if it found a new "personality" leader, or developed further into a "niche" party based on its values of conservatism and economic nationalism.

NZ First has lost its vital parliamentary platform and funding, but it will not wither immediately as it has a support base, 15-year history and organisational structure.

A group of younger candidates, such as former television weatherman Brendan Horan, were placed on its party list beneath its seven MPs as part of planning for post-2011.

Ron Mark, the likely replacement leader, is well-known and competent, but doesn't fit the personality category. He was hammered in the Rimutaka electorate, coming third with less than half the votes of the National and Labour candidates who beat him.

He was pitched as an outside chance there.

Party sources said its niche values would remain relevant with the election of a National-Act government and continuing tough economic times.

Mr Peters' speech also indicated that he believed NZ First had a future as a "cause".

He singled out preventing asset sales, the importance of looking after your own people, and New Zealand having control of its own economic destiny.

"Your cause is not over at all. The things we sought to present to New Zealand as the big issues are still the great issues as you will see in the next three years," Mr Peters said.

Mr Peters also criticised the way the MMP electoral system was interpreted as if it was the first-past-the-post system, with a focus on the two major parties and the presidential-style match-up between the two leaders.

NZ First had difficulty getting traction with policies like its plan to let New Zealanders buy a share in Kiwibank to help pump it up to become a market leader.

It was not able to get beyond the donations controversy, with further allegations about Mr Peters emerging during the campaign, including his denials about a helicopter that were disproved by later photographic evidence.