Herald on Sunday

NZ First debriefs at gathering

Peters’ keynote speech at AGM first major public showing since election defeat

- Derek Cheng

Areview of the election defeat and how to arise from the ashes as it did in 2011 is being discussed at New Zealand First’s annual general meeting in Auckland this weekend.

But the bigger question — which may not be answered — is whether party leader Winston Peters will front the 2023 election campaign, and if not, who would win in the ensuing leadership tussle between Shane Jones and Fletcher Tabuteau.

Peters’ keynote speech today will be his first major public appearance since the party won 2.6 per cent of the vote last year, well short of the 5 per cent needed to enter Parliament without winning an electorate seat.

Asked on Friday about the AGM and his speech today, Peters was characteri­stically coy on what might be discussed.

“You’ll have to turn up and find out.”

On the agenda for the weekend is the party’s review into its failed election campaign, while another review into wider constituti­onal issues will also be considered.

The campaign strategy has been questioned.

It was also rocked by Serious Fraud Office charges laid against the New Zealand First Foundation. Those charges are still in court and are one of the “hurdles” that former MP and minister Ron Mark alludes to when asked about the ability of the party to return to Parliament.

But he told the Herald there was plenty of centrist, nationalis­t space in the electoral marketplac­e for NZ First to rise again in 2023.

Mark didn’t want to comment on whether Peters should lead the charge in the party’s 2023 election campaign.

“Winston will do what Winston will do, whether it’s a year or whether it’s not, whether it’s Shane, whether it’s Fletcher Tabuteau. Who knows?”

Mark, a former party deputy leader, said he will not renew his membership nor be at the AGM.

Jones and Tabuteau are attending, but Jones declined to comment on any leadership ambitions, while Tabuteau wouldn’t even confirm whether the party’s future prospects would be discussed. It was put to him that the only way they wouldn’t be discussed is if the party was about to dissolve. Asked if that was happening, he said, laughing, “let me remain mysterious” before adding that the party was not about to dissolve.

Asked if he had ambitions to lead the party whenever Peters decided to step aside, Tabuteau said: “I have no ambition to discuss that.”

 ??  ?? Winston Peters
Winston Peters

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