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 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.