Peters: Gov­ern­ment will be known by end of next week

NZ First cau­cus and board to meet in next few days to de­lib­er­ate on their op­tions

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS - Ni­cholas Jones

The talk­ing is over but the re­sult wide open as Win­ston Peters and his party weigh up the fi­nal deals from Na­tional and Labour — with Peters promis­ing New Zealand will know who its gov­ern­ment is be­fore the end of next week.

Af­ter be­ing in near-con­stant meet­ings since Sun­day, the New Zealand First team now has a lit­tle breath­ing space to con­sider the of­fers. It will be­gin do­ing that with an all-day meet­ing of its cau­cus today.

Peters stressed he was still open to any­thing — from a coali­tion to the cross benches un­der which NZ First would not take any min­is­te­rial posts. He said pol­icy talks were com­plete.

“I’m very, very pleased that we’ve ac­tu­ally got it fin­ished. We’ve got a se­ri­ously com­pre­hen­sive dossier from both sides.”

How­ever, he had not de­cided whether to back Na­tional or Labour.

“No. I said I’d go into it with a to­tally open mind and I asked my cau­cus and the board to have the same ap­proach. I can hon­estly tell you I wouldn’t take a guess what any­one is cur­rently think­ing.”

The of­fer­ings from Labour and Na­tional did not yet in­clude spe­cific port­fo­lios for NZ First mem­bers.

Peters said the pro­pos­als he would take to the cau­cus and board were solely on poli­cies. Any port­fo­lios would be dis­cussed later if NZ First de­cided to opt for them — an is­sue he ex­pected the cau­cus to dis­cuss at its meet­ing today.

“If we can’t get an agree­ment on poli­cies, ev­ery­thing else is ir­rel­e­vant.”

Peters said both NZ First and Labour and Na­tional would now sum up what had been agreed and then cross-check to en­sure both had the same un­der­stand­ing of it. That com­mu­ni­ca­tion would be done by staff and of­fi­cials rather than the lead­ers.

Asked if New Zealand would have a gov­ern­ment by the end of next week, Peters replied: “Yes. Now would you write that on the wall please?”

When asked if he might re­turn to the par­ties to seek fur­ther

We’ve got a se­ri­ously com­pre­hen­sive dossier from both sides. NZ First leader Win­ston Peters

con­ces­sions or to out­bid the other, Peters said he might seek “clar­i­fi­ca­tions” on some is­sues but he wasn't run­ning a Dutch auc­tion.

Prior to the elec­tion, Peters said if he was king­maker, he would an­nounce a de­ci­sion by Writ Day — Oc­to­ber 12 — but he de­fended tak­ing longer, say­ing 10 days was not too long to wait.

Pos­si­ble op­tions in­clude a full coali­tion in­side Cab­i­net, a sup­port agree­ment of­fer­ing con­fi­dence and sup­ply in re­turn for some min­is­te­rial posts out­side Cab­i­net, to sit­ting on the cross benches of­fer­ing sup­port on a case-by-case ba­sis in re­turn for fewer pol­icy gains.

NZ First had about eight hours of ne­go­ti­a­tions with Na­tional and Labour yes­ter­day.

A meet­ing of the board to sign off on an agree­ment could still be held in Welling­ton today, al­though it was more likely it would be de­layed un­til the week­end or Mon­day.

That was partly due to lo­gis­ti­cal is­sues in­clud­ing fu­ner­als, he told me­dia, later con­firm­ing one board mem­ber had a tangi to at­tend.

NZ First had re­fused to re­lease the names of the board, de­spite pub­lish­ing such de­tails in past years.

The Her­ald had con­firmed the iden­ti­ties of the 14 board mem­bers, who in­clude Peters, deputy Ron Mark, sev­eral NZ First can­di­dates and a past pres­i­dent.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern emerged from her fi­nal talks with Peters and his team last night say­ing the par­ties had a good un­der­stand­ing of each other’s po­si­tions and the process was “pos­i­tive and help­ful”.

“[It is] a good ba­sis on which both par­ties can an­a­lyse what we have in com­mon, what we can build from, what will be the foun­da­tion of a good, solid change of gov­ern­ment.”

Na­tional leader Bill English has avoided talk­ing to me­dia, but af­ter Na­tional’s last talks Steven Joyce replied with a smiley face on Twit­ter to a ques­tion of whether Na­tional were smil­ing as they left the meet­ing.

Labour will also need the sup­port of the Green Party to form a Gov­ern­ment, but is ne­go­ti­at­ing sep­a­rate agree­ments with each party. It wants the Greens for­mally on board be­fore Peters and his team make their fi­nal de­ci­sion, so they can guar­an­tee they have the num­bers.

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