Labour is on track to win 66 of the 120 seats in the country's unicameral parliament, the highest by any party since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996. Ardern has dubbed the vote "the Covid election" and campaigned on her government's success in eliminating community transmission of the virus, which has caused just 25 deaths in a population of five million. "It's been full of uncertainty and anxiety and we set out to be an antidote for that".
"And over the next three years there is a lot to do". "We will build back stronger from the coronavirus".
A number of seats are reserved for Maori candidates. If Ardern does need the Greens, they may demand a more progressive agenda in return for keeping Ardern in power, after a first term when she failed to deliver on some key promises such as improving housing affordability and countering child poverty.
"And in times of crisis I believe New Zealand has shown that and for that again, I say thank you".
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with locals on the final day of campaigning for the general election in the Manurewa area of Auckland October 16, 2020.
The result was a clear endorsement of the Ardern government's handling of COVID-19, which resulted in the country of 5 million imposing some of the world's strongest lockdown measures from late March.
Ardern, 40, has captured the hallowed center ground in New Zealand politics with a blend of empathetic leadership and skilled crisis management that has also won her fame overseas.
News.com.au's initial reporting of the results suggested that the outcome had been quite different. Ms Ardern has led New Zealand through a terrorist attack, a natural disaster and a global pandemic - and has done so focusing on kindness and compassion.
Rangitata, labelled the most conservative seat in the country by TVNZ's Vote Compass, went into the hands of Labour MP Jo Luxton, while Tukituki has turned red after 15 years.
Labour entered the evening with a 15-point lead in the polls, and quickly outperformed expectations as early results trickled in.
Parties usually have to work together, resulting in coalition governments.
The National Party's support fell to 27% on Saturday while the Greens rose from 6.3% to 7.5%, the ACT Party jumped to 8% from 1% and New Zealand First fell from 7.2% to 2.6%.
National Party leader Judith Collins has called Ardern to congratulate her on the victory and promised to offer "a robust opposition" to the prime minister's second-term government.
"He has dedicated his life to public service, to Parliament, and I hope he feels proud of what we did in the last three years because I certainly do".
Collins, who took over the National Party in July after a period of turmoil when the party had three leaders in three months, said the false start had cost her campaign momentum.
The opposition centre-right National Party, now on 27%, has admitted defeat in Saturday's poll.
The new government will not have much time to celebrate its victory as it turns its focus to preventing fresh outbreaks of COVID-19 and easing the pressure on the economy. Debt is forecast to rise to 56 percent of gross domestic product from less than 20 percent before the pandemic. This is a binding vote, which means it will be enacted if more than 50% vote "yes".
Still, the outlook remains bleak over the medium term, with the country's biggest foreign exchange earner - tourism - hobbled by a border that is nearly entirely closed except to returning New Zealanders.