Revealed: Who Kiwis think should be NZ First leader if Winston Peters stands down

Newshub can reveal exclusive details about who the country and New Zealand First would pick if Winston Peters ever stands down as party leader.

In the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, voters were asked for their thoughts on who should take over if Peters ever stands down as New Zealand First leader.

Next to no one thinks deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau is up to the task - just 3.6 percent. Tracey Martin is on 13.8 percent while Shane Jones is on 14.5 percent and Ron Mark takes the crown on 17.9 percent.  

When New Zealand First voters were asked the same thing, New Zealand First MP and Defence Minister Ron Mark came out on top again - this time way out front - on 34.4 percent.

Tabuteau did better on 13.6 percent, Jones better yet on 18.5 percent, but NZ First voters do not seem to want Tracey Martin to lead the party - she was on just 2.9 percent.

This follows Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refusing to rule out standing Peters down as a minister if the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigates the NZ First donations.

"I've not got into any hypotheticals and nor will I," she told Newshub. 

Peters is defiant in the face of allegations over party donations.

The Electoral Commission has found the NZ First Foundation received donations which should have been treated as party donations and they weren't properly declared.

The case was referred by police to the Serious Fraud Office.

"I don't expect anyone at the SFO will be talking to Winston Peters. Guess why? I was not involved in any way shape or form," Peters said on Tuesday.

"They have no such proof and they have no such evidence and we have a legal opinion to back up what we've said."

Peters' MPs are confident he will get through this - some more categorical than others.

"I would think so," New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin said.

Her caucus colleague Shane Jones described Peters as an "evergreen tree" and likened him to Tāne Mahuta, a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest in Northland.

Ron Mark said he had "no comment to make at all about matters relating to the foundation".

New Zealand First is now reviewing its donation regime and Labour is also double-checking.

In 2008, when NZ First donations were investigated by the SFO, Peters stood down as minister.

Political Editor Tova O'Brien's analysis

Publicly, and privately, in the Beehive everyone is playing happy families.

After failing to express trust in Winston Peters on Monday, Jacinda Ardern is now saying, of course, she trusts him.

You may have noticed Peters taking a more conciliatory tone. In 2008, when his donations were being looked at, he went to war which put a real strain on his relationship with then-PM Helen Clark.

So this time, a different approach. You can teach an old dog new tricks. But in an election year, you've got the Coalition Government talking about a scandal over substance, and if that continues, cracks will start to appear.