Helen Clark remains a good chance of being shortlisted for the post of United Nations secretary-general after slightly improved straw poll results in New York, the Government says.
While the former Prime Minister's position dropped from seventh to eighth, the number of discourages against her also dropped with one nation moving back to a no-opinion vote, which the New Zealand Government is taking as a positive.
Miss Clark was given six "encourage", seven "discourage" and two "no opinion" votes in the poll, which was again topped by established frontrunner, former Portugese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.
Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully say it's still early stages in the race.
Mr McCully said Miss Clark was relieved the ballot gave her a small improvement when there was a risk she could have received more discourages.
"I think there's now a general acceptance... counties want to have her on that shortlist so that when the serious negotiations start she's one of the options in the past," he told reporters in the Federated States of Micronesia where he and Mr Key are attending the Pacific Islands Forum.
The vote could swing drastically in the final days with the Security Council's permanent members - the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - holding vetoes that could strike Mr Guterres and other favourites out.
Russia has been lobbying strongly for an eastern European candidate so could eliminate Mr Guterres with their veto, while other nations, including the US, are believed to be pushing for the next UN secretary-general to be a woman.
In the past when it has been Eastern Europe's turn to have a secretary-general their candidates have been vetoed, and it was not clear if that would happen again, Mr McCully said.
"When you look through the list this time it's pretty easy to see many of those who currently favour better than Helen Clark in the straw polls are going to go the way of the veto, so if you're looking at a net list of candidates that will be available for the short list I think she's in reasonable shape."
He and Mr Key agreed the result would justify Miss Clark's decision to remain in the contest.
"I think she'll be naturally pleased the position's improved slightly. I think it would probably vindicate her decision to stay in the race because her main argument has been that it's a long way to run yet," Mr Key said.
He would not speculate on whether he thought the "no opinion" had come from the US, after describing President Barack Obama as "sympathetic" to Miss Clark's cause after talks in Laos earlier in the week.
With the drop to eighth, Miss Clark trails Mr Guterres, Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak in second place, former Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic in third, former Macedonian foreign minister Srgjan Kerim in fourth, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova of Bulgaria fifth, former Slovenian president Danilo Turk sixth and Argentinian Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra in seventh.
A fifth Security Council vote will be held on September 26, with the plan to recommend a consensus candidate to the 193-member UN General Assembly in October.