Winston Peters' position as New Zealand First leader is safe - at least for now.
That was the message from a behind-closed-doors meeting of about 100 party members in Auckland yesterday.
While Peters refused to meet waiting journalists, newly appointed party spokesman Brendan Horan eventually emerged to say the leader's position wasn't even discussed.
However, former deputy leader Peter Brown - who left the meeting early after resigning his post - said members had been talking "openly and honestly about the concerns they've got".
Brown said Peters had to take his "fair share" of blame for the party's disastrous performance at last year's election but was certain "he's taken note of the troops in there".
However, Brown said Peters remained the best person to lead the party into the next campaign: "We would be mad to dispense with him."
Yesterday's meeting in Pakuranga was the party's first official get-together since it lost its Parliamentary presence.
Horan, a former TVNZ weatherman, described the conference as a time of "reflection and consolidation".
It had been prefaced by criticism of Peters' relationship with the media, with Brown saying the leader had become "a bit of a liability" over his handling of the Owen Glenn donations scandal.
Members decided yesterday to form a media committee.
Auckland member Julie Carr said it would be "a buffer between Winston and the media" while president George Groombridge said it was formed to get "positive representation" of the party.
Asked why Peters refused to talk to journalists, Groombridge blamed the press.
Ron Mark denied he would run for leadership if Peters stood down but said he would consider his options in the next year.
Pita Paraone said the event was an opportunity "for people to put a little bit of blood on the floor".
He said it was up to members to decide the party's future before adding that NZ First and Winston Peters were synonymous with each other.
Peters' popularity with the party faithful was evident in the portrait adorning a table of party souvenirs, but that didn't make him any more accessible to outsiders.
Once the media got inside, they waited until 4pm to speak to Peters, only to be told that he had already left the building.