Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's proud of the party's efforts in the Northcote by-election, despite coming up slightly short of victory.
Saturday's result saw National retain the seat vacated by former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman. Newcomer Dan Bidois won 51 percent of the vote, down slightly on what Dr Coleman managed last year but enough to fend off Labour's Shanan Halbert, who got 44.1 percent.
- Tova O'Brien: Clear loser in Northcote, and it wasn't the candidates
- Dan Bidois wins Northcote by-election
- Northcote by-election - the results
Ms Ardern says by-elections can be "brutal", and Mr Halbert did well to improve on his showing in 2017, when he got 34.2 percent.
"By-elections are hard work - the spotlight is on you, and I probably can attest to that," Ms Ardern told media after the vote was counted. Ms Ardern, a longtime list MP, became an electorate MP when she won the 2017 by-election in Mt Albert.
"There was a lot of eyes on this, and you did us proud, Shanan," she told the runner-up. "You were an excellent candidate, you spoke about the things that mattered."
She said it was a "very good outcome" for a sitting Government's candidate to improve on his vote so much.
"We're really proud of that. We certainly expected it to be close, and of course you go into every election race hoping for a win. We couldn't have had better in Shanan and the team that ran the campaign here."
She said it alarm bells would be ringing for National, despite their win.
"When you compare other by-elections when you've been in Government, this is a very good outcome for us."
She wouldn't say if Mr Halbert would get a high list ranking at the next general election.
"That's a process we'll go through in two years' time."
Mr Halbert said he's game to try again.
"I'm a hard worker, and when you get this far along the political journey, I'm up for it - I'm absolutely up for representing this community."
Did the All Blacks curse Labour?
Around the time the polls closed in Northcote, across the harbour the All Blacks were thumping France at Eden Park.
Ms Ardern joked that perhaps they cursed her party's chances in Northcote.
"They blamed me for a couple of losses, so take that," she laughed.
In October last year, a newspaper columnist suggested Ms Ardern, being the country's first female Prime Minister since Helen Clark, would "curse" the side. The All Blacks failed to win any World Cups during Ms Clark's tenure, but won twice in the John Key era.