Coalition talks: Peters and Seymour keep it short

ACT leader David Seymour (left) and NZ First's Winston Peters. Photo: NZ Herald
ACT leader David Seymour (left) and NZ First's Winston Peters. Photo: NZ Herald

The leaders of New Zealand First and ACT have briefly met, in a significant breakthrough in negotiations for the next government.

The Parliament precinct has been a hive of activity today, with National leader Christopher Luxon, NZ First leader Winston Peters and ACT leader David Seymour all on site.

In a significant development just before 4.40pm, Peters and his chief of staff Darroch Ball were seen entering the ACT Party's temporary offices at Parliament's library. They left about 10 minutes later.

Peters refused to comment on the nature or tone of the meeting. Asked for a timeline on a potential deal, he replied: "God, you guys are very trying".

He had earlier been seen exiting a lift near National's offices and was later seen heading to the Beehive.

Speaking to RNZ, Seymour confirmed the pair spoke and said it was a "good chat".

NZ First and ACT's chiefs of staff also met in Wellington yesterday for the first time since the general election on October 14. 

NZ First's caucus has been meeting in its own temporary offices on The Terrace, across the road, this week, but Peters' and his second-in-command Shane Jones' presence at Parliament is a shift.

Peters has typically avoided reporters since the talks have been under way, but answered some questions on Thursday afternoon - saying negotiations were substantial and "speed is of the essence".

Peters, Seymour and Luxon have talked about the need to meet together, and while all were present at Parliament today none would confirm whether that would be today, or tomorrow.

After the official election result on Friday last week, Seymour said he would want to see any deal National made with NZ First before he signed off on his own agreement.

NZ First leader Winston Peters speaks to media after emerging from his party's temporary offices...
NZ First leader Winston Peters speaks to media after emerging from his party's temporary offices near the Treasury building, as negotiations for forming a government with National and ACT continue. Photo: RNZ

'Speed of the essence': Peters 

Speaking outside of the Treasury building on The Terrace today, Peters told reporters he would answer "rational, sane questions" and would not speak about any confidential details of the talks.

Negotiations were "substantial, they're progressive. It takes a lot of time to get to the detail because the detail's got to be cross-matched with other detail.

"We've only been going four days given the fact it was on last Friday late in the afternoon we got the facts that others were relying upon - but not us," Peters said.

"Speed is of the essence," he said, when asked if there was a deadline for the talks to conclude.

"We're not wasting time here, some of us would like to get back home - we've been on the [campaign] trail for two and a-half years."

Peters was also asked in which portfolios he would best be placed, given his experience as a politician and former minister.

"Our experience is best placed in trying to get a good, sound, much much better government organised going into the future.

"This country's got to turn a dramatic decline in our economy around we're going at less than 0.1 percent, that's GDP (gross domestic product). Next year according to the IMF (International Monetary Fund), we're going to be 159 in the world, we've got to turn this around right here and right now and that's why these talks are seriously substantial.

"We've got people working the second longest hours in the OECD. The reason why we're failing is right here in this place down here called Parliament."

When asked about how negotiations and the relationship was progressing with ACT leader David Seymour, Peters said it was obvious both parties were in discussion with National.

"Those are the critical engagements we're involved in, just like we've always been in the past and this will happen as we get further down the track, maybe sooner - much sooner - rather than later. But nothing unusual about that at all."

He refused to answer questions about potential areas of disagreement, including the partial rollback of the ban on foreign home buyers, saying that was a "confidential matter".

NZ First MP Shane Jones. Photo: RNZ
NZ First MP Shane Jones. Photo: RNZ

The APEC summit - attended some of the world's most powerful leaders - will start in San Francisco next week. National's Christopher Luxon has said he would be keen to be there if there was a government deal in place in time.

That summit and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), happening at the moment, were both on leaders' minds as they progressed the talks, Peters said.

"And here we are, with a three-week delay, because people decided to have people enrolling on election day," he said. "They had 35 months to enrol, but no, we had people going to the election day as parties with manifestos, not knowing who the constituency was. That's not democracy.

"We had three weeks' delay as a consequence of that and I wish the media would focus on who caused that delay than the last few days, and we've been flat out all day and half the darn night trying to get the negotiations completed."

The law was changed in 2020 to allow people to enrol to vote on election day - it was passed with New Zealand First's support.

When the change was made, an extra week was given to allow for the extra checking likely needed. That meant three weeks between election night and confirmation of the final result.

While it was "seriously important" for New Zealand to be represented at prime ministerial level at the Pacific Islands Forum, that opportunity had "been missed", he said.

"And it's very important to be at APEC, but let's look at the barrier, or the obstruction, or the detour, put there by the Labour Party that we have to live through", he said, including the need to renew the warrant of Chris Hipkins as Prime Minister which will expire this weekend.

Ranked second in the New Zealand First caucus, Shane Jones was coy when asked for any updates as he walked into Treasury.

"No. Great news, I've been to Farmers' to buy some underwear," he said.

Jones hosed down a question over whether his purchase indicated he would be staying in Wellington for a few more days to get the deal done.

"I can assure you, they're singlets and not undies."

Christopher Luxon speaking to media earlier this week. Photo: RNZ
Christopher Luxon speaking to media earlier this week. Photo: RNZ

Luxon: We're making progress 

Speaking to reporters at Parliament, Luxon said the parties were "working away on a few issues and we're making progress" but declined to give further details.

He could not "really say" when asked how many days away a deal might be.

"We're working as hard as we possibly can. There's really good faith and good will, with all the political leaders that are there and we're making good progress."

Luxon said he "would like to go" to APEC but his "real priority was making sure we form a strong, stable government".

The three parties negotiating had not yet all met together but they "would be doing that shortly", he said, though refused to give more specific details.

He defended the time taken to put a deal in place, saying it "had not yet been a week since the official vote was counted".

"We had 20 percent of our vote not counted until three weeks after election night, which was an issue, I think, in itself, so we can speed it up in the future.

"But importantly, what we're doing is making sure that we can actually progress as fast as we can."