The National Party has emerged a clear winner in the 2014 general election and Prime Minister-elect John Key has vowed to continue to provide strong and stable government.
With all but the special votes counted National is set to have 61 seats in Parliament, just enough to govern alone, although it will still have support from some of the minor parties.
Mr Key said he was both humbled and energised by the result and the prospect of a third term.
To chants of "three more years" from supporters at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland, Mr Key said it was a victory for those who kept the faith.
"This is a victory for those who refused to be distracted and who knew that a vote for National was a vote for a brighter future for all New Zealanders.
"This was a victory for the people, the policies, the unity and the vision that National will bring to government for the next three years.
"For the third consecutive election night I stand here ready to lead our country and to work with like-minded parties to continue to provide the strong and stable government that is working for New Zealand.
Mr Key said MMP was designed to encourage political parties to work together and he would be talking to United Future, the Maori Party and ACT.
"We've worked well with those parties over the years ... I think we've been a better government for having different component parts supporting us."
Earlier, at the party's election night headquarters in New Lynn, Mr Cunliffe conceded defeat and thanked supporters.
"As most of you realise the way the votes have fallen tonight we will not be able to form a government," he said.
"The party votes of Labour and the Greens are not sufficient to change government, even with New Zealand First.
"I've called on John Key and congratulated him and I have acknowledged that he will continue to be the Prime Minister of New Zealand at this time."
Mr Cunliffe said the party had to reflect on why a National government had been returned.
The Green Party gained just over 10 percent of the party vote, translating into 13 seats, and New Zealand First, with just under 9 percent of the vote has 11 seats, three more than it had in the last Parliament.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the result was disappointing, but she was the party had held its level of support from the last election.
Two of National's traditional support parties - ACT and United Future - return to Parliament with David Seymour winning Epsom and Peter Dunne retaining Ohariu.
The Conservatives polled fifth highest in the party vote, but fell just short of the five percent needed to get into Parliament without winning an electorate.
Internet Mana won just over 1 percent of the party vote and Mana leader Hone Harawira has lost his Te Tai Tokerau electorate, meaning the alliance will not enter Parliament.