Coalition talks resume, Treaty issues unresolved

National leader Christopher Luxon arrives at a central Auckland hotel this morning for ongoing...
National leader Christopher Luxon arrives at a central Auckland hotel this morning for ongoing coalition talks. Photo: NZ Herald
National leader Christopher Luxon said all parties involved in coalition talks have made "good progress" and they were down to the final set of issues.

Luxon met with Winston Peters this afternoon and has spoken with Act’s David Seymour over the phone.

He said everyone needs a break tonight and some time with their families.

"You can get quite a lot done in 30 minutes," he said of his meeting with Peters. The NZ First leader was seen swiftly leaving the Cordis Hotel after his meeting with Luxon.

The prime minister-elect is expected to meet with Peters again tomorrow.

"We have just been talking frankly about policy and that is what we will continue to do," Luxon said.

He said there was no point talking about ministerial positions until the "actual substance" was aligned.

"We need to get this wrapped up and we are making progress. We understand everyone’s been very patient with us.

"It will take as long as it takes."

On whether Parliament could resume before the last week of November, Luxon said he was not going to get into timings.

"We honestly are in the last stages we’re just trying to get that last bit of understanding and agreement between parties.

"We are trying to make sure that whatever format we end up determining and announcing the reality is that all three parties need to be able to support each other’s policy programmes," Luxon said.

Meanwhile, NZ First leader Peters believes Parliament can theoretically resume "much more quickly" than the last week of November as he continues negotiations with National.

Peters spoke with an almost apologetic tone as he struggled to provide any new answers to waiting reporters ahead of his second in-person meeting with National’s negotiating team at Auckland’s Cordis Hotel today. He then left the Cordis Hotel after less than 30 minutes, a much quicker meeting than his previous ones which have all taken more than two hours.

He left without a word to media, except to say to one reporter "I got you a present", giving him a plastic spinning top and chuckling as he did so.

Asked on his way into the short meeting about whether the parties were at the finish line of discussions, Peters laughed.

He couldn’t confirm whether this was his last meeting with National nor could he say whether the two parties would finally reach a compromise on policy issues.

"We’re going as fast as we possibly can and I know everybody’s impatient but we’ve just got to get this right."

Media reports over the last week have widely speculated National’s proposed tax on foreign home buyers, intended to fund its tax cuts, was dead.

Peters speculated how those reports could be accurate given talks were confidential, but did acknowledge the vacuum of information.

"Look guys, I’d like to tell you more but I can’t."

As negotiations dragged on, questions remained on when Parliament would resume and the next government could advance its policy agenda.

Peters seemed optimistic about a quick return.

"Well, theoretically, it could start much more quickly than the last part of November but we’ll see."

He didn’t specify a date.

There were only two weeks left in November and given talks had not yet ended, it would be quite unlikely the House would resume next week.

It was understood the last week of November and the first full week of December were being considered for the resumption of Parliament

Meanwhile, National deputy leader Nicola Willis was vague on the future of her proposed foreign buyers tax as speculation mounts that one of the key aspects of National’s plan to offer tax cuts has been shot down during negotiations.

Several media reports have cited the proposed 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of New Zealand homes worth more than $2 million as a contentious issue in discussions between National, Act, and particularly, New Zealand First.

Politics show Newshub Nation reported this morning the tax - expected to generate $2.8 billion over four years to help fund tax cuts - was "basically dead".

Willis, who exited Auckland’s Cordis Hotel at 1pm after a two-hour meeting with NZ First’s Winston Peters, said nothing was decided until talks concluded.

"Until we have finalised a government and announced it to New Zealand, nothing’s final."

On today’s meeting, Willis said the two parties were "aware of each other’s views and positions" and had a shared motivation to get a result for Kiwis.

It was understood the three parties were still deliberating on the structure of the deal they would strike - whether it would be one deal encompassing all parties or two separate deals National had with Act and NZ First.

National leader Christopher Luxon last night said the three leaders had discussed the potential of a deal between Act and NZ First alongside two agreements the parties would have with National.

However, Peters didn’t appear to be on the same page, saying today there would either be one big deal or two separate deals.

Willis said she wasn’t sure about the final structure but acknowledged the need for all three parties to agree on the next government’s policy agenda - something Act leader David Seymour said yesterday.

"The result that the electorate has delivered us requires arrangements in place between three parties because no two parties would have the votes to pass legislation in Parliament at this point."

Both Willis and Peters had promised to deliver a mini-Budget before Christmas, analysing the state of the government books.

Willis today emphasised the realistic outcomes of that mini-Budget.

"We’ve put emphasis on the word ‘mini’ in mini-Budget and the reason for that is we are necessarily constrained in what we can do between now and Christmas," she said.

"What we will have is a half-year economic and fiscal update which will provide us an opportunity to transparently share with New Zealanders the real state of the books, the real state of the economy, for us to respond to that as a government in terms of what our fiscal priorities will be, what policy we’re kicking off to respond to New Zealand’s economic and fiscal situation and to get on with the main job which is reducing the cost of living for New Zealanders."

Last night, Luxon indicated that he, Peters and Act leader David Seymour discussed the potential of a deal between Act and NZ First.

So far, National had been looking to strike separate deals between it and the other parties.

However, that raised questions over how support could be ensured for future legislation if not all three parties were signed up to the same agreement.

NZ First leader Winston Peters arrives for his meeting with Christopher Luxon. Photo: NZ Herald
NZ First leader Winston Peters arrives for his meeting with Christopher Luxon. Photo: NZ Herald
Peters today stated there would either be "one deal or two deals", likely referring to one deal encompassing all three parties or two separate deals Act and NZ First would have with National.

He didn’t state his preference when asked. "We’re relaxed about that accepting identity is important and we’ll carry on having those discussions."

Seymour told Newstalk ZB yesterday he felt there needed to be one agreement that could support the next government’s policy agenda.

Luxon reiterated before today's meeting that talks were "really close" to being wrapped up with the "topic of conversation" getting "narrower".

"We’ve got a couple of issues to close out and that’s what we’re working on today," he said. 

When asked if these were "thorny" issues to thrash out, he said no, "not necessarily".

"They are issues where we want to understand where everyone is at."

He was unsure if he’ll meet with Seymour today, saying plenty of negotiations have also been done over the phone or through other channels.

Treaty issues 

How the next government applies the Treaty of Waitangi in legislation and the public service remains unresolved as coalition negotiations appear close to an end.

Act remains hopeful its proposal to hold a referendum on the Treaty’s principles is still achievable, despite National showing no support for it.

NZ First has publicly stated its intention to reform Te Arawhiti, the office of Māori-Crown relations, and address what it believes is the Waitangi Tribunal’s misinterpretation of the Treaty. NZ First MPs have stated a referendum is not something they had campaigned on.

Discussions were ongoing between Act and NZ First about how the two parties could converge in relation to their priorities regarding the Treaty.

Also yet to be finalised was how the agreement between the three parties would be structured.

So far, Luxon had referenced the separate deals National was looking to strike between Act and NZ First, but it had raised questions over how the two smaller parties could be assured their promised policies would be supported by all three governing partners.

Last night, he said the matter had been something the three leaders had spoken about and revealed a deal between Act and NZ First was "something that we will look to do".

Pressed on why three separate deals were necessary, Luxon said he wouldn’t speculate publicly.

He also revealed a second meeting between the three leaders would likely occur in the coming days, but not before further talks between individual leaders took place over the weekend. 

Luxon, Seymour and Peters have only all met together once before and it was brief. Asked why there was a need for another three-way meeting, Luxon said it was important for all parties to be clear on what had been agreed and have an opportunity to raise any last-minute issues.

On Friday morning, Luxon said he had scheduled meetings with both Peters and Seymour - similar to what occurred on Thursday.

However, he later admitted the Seymour meeting was no longer necessary and the pair had been communicating by phone to resolve remaining outstanding issues.

It was understood there was little need for the pair to meet given a deal between the two parties was close to completion.

Luxon and Peters met for about two-and-a-half hours, which the former described as "very good".

Peters told reporters after yesterday’s meeting there were still points of disagreement to finalise. However, speaking to The New Zealand Herald about 5pm, Peters said it would be fair to say National and NZ First were close to an agreement on policy.

At the time, Peters had just left a meeting of Act representatives, which he described as positive.