Act leader David Seymour says the position of Deputy Prime Minister is being discussed as part of the coalition talks but is yet to be finalised as the three parties are the closest they’ve been to a deal.
Leaving the Cordis Hotel tonight after a two-hour meeting with the National Party negotiation team, Seymour, flanked by deputy leader Brooke van Velden and Act MP Nicole McKee, said there were still policy matters to negotiate but the two parties were “almost completely there” regarding an agreement.
He cautioned people who might think a deal was imminent, saying he hadn’t seen any deal between National and NZ First.
Seymour said he did have some idea of what had been discussed between the two other parties after daily meetings he’d had with NZ First.
It had been widely speculated that Act’s proposed Treaty of Waitangi referendum was one of the sticking points in coalition talks.
Seymour believed it was still a “live possibility”.
The role of Deputy Prime Minister was also yet to be settled, he said.
It was Seymour’s expectation that Act would be inside Cabinet and he suspected NZ First expected the same.
He was optimistic a deal could be reached by Sunday.
”I still believe it’s possible this week.”
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Christopher Luxon fronts media as negotiations continue to form a Government. Photo / Michael Craig
Emerging from the talks tonight, National Party leader Christopher Luxon said there were only a “few issues” left to resolve in coalition negotiations before a Government was formed.
Luxon spoke to reporters about 8.30pm after meetings with both Seymour and NZ First’s Winston Peters. Both meetings took more than two hours.
He described the day as “very successful” but said there was more work to do and he would work through the weekend if necessary.
Luxon still wouldn’t give an estimate on when a deal could be struck.
”We’re down to a few issues we want to talk about and really understand what our respective policies are.”
Luxon wouldn’t elaborate on those sticking points, saying the discussions must be kept in good faith. He didn’t answer whether National preferred to enter a three-party coalition or strike confidence and supply arrangements with the two other parties.
Luxon believed the talks thus far had been “respectful and professional”.
He was confident there was no chance of a second election as he believed the three parties could reach an agreement.
Asked whether he knew Peters after previously saying he didn’t know the NZ First leader, Luxon said he learned much about Peters through their more casual get-togethers.
”I enjoy his company, I really do.”
Peters arrived at the Cordis for coalition talks this afternoon, denying reports he snubbed his coalition partners earlier this week in Wellington, saying he was never scheduled to attend a meeting in the Capital.
Meanwhile, Seymour said the three parties are “on the cusp” of getting a deal done to form a new Government.
Peters arrived at the Cordis just after 2.30pm. Smiling as he left a car, he greeted media and told them the three parties were working with “haste” to get a deal signed.
When Peters was asked what issues the party leaders were having to work through, he walked away and said: “Take a wild guess”.
Winston Peters arrives at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland ahead of coalition talks with Christopher Luxon and David Seymour. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Regarding suggestions he had missed a meeting with Luxon and Seymour in Wellington on Tuesday, Peters claimed he was “never going to Wellington” and both Luxon and Seymour knew that.
He said he did not snub National and Act after they flew down to Wellington, with reports they were planning a three-party meeting there.
Peters said he never intended to go to Wellington as he had a meeting with an overseas foreign minister who had been at the Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga and was passing through Auckland on the way to Apec in San Francisco.
He said negotiations with National and Act were in the final stages but he couldn’t confirm a time frame.
Winston Peters arrives at the Cordis Hotel. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Peters arrived at the Cordis ahead of a meeting with National as part of negotiations to form a Government along with Act.
He said progress was “pretty substantial” and negotiations were in the final stages, but he declined to add more.
”Until we know what the final outcome is, it’d be premature, rash and irresponsible to make another comment.”
Peters was far more talkative with media than he has been recently, stopping for a two-minute press stand-up.
He said he couldn’t give a time frame for a deal as it was “in the hands of others as well”.
”But what we’re going to do is make sure we get to the end of it as soon as we possibly can. And that’s what we’ve been doing, like today.”
Peters also declined to answer if he was offended by the initial coalition document provided to him last week, only responding: “Next question.”
He said they were trying to resolve negotiations with the “greatest haste possible”, adding it would be possibly “four months and three weeks quicker than the last German Government was formed”.
When Peters emerged from his meeting, which lasted about two-and-a-half hours, he indicated the entire meeting was focused on policy instead of ministerial portfolios.
“There’s always been progress every day despite what you guys write and the reality is it’s going with the greatest of speed possible,” he said.
“This is normal and when we’ve got the facts all ... agreed on, we can announce the results. Anything else in between time, of course, is to divulge private information which just breeds distrust.”
Peters described the negotiations as “positive” but also “hard work”.
“We’re professionals getting on with that job.”
Peters revealed he’d had meetings with Act every day for the past five days, including today. He also described them as “very positive”.
When Seymour arrived at the Cordis, he said he felt as though the three parties were “on the cusp” of getting a deal done to form a new Government.
He spoke to media briefly before a meeting with National at 5.30pm. He was joined by van Velden and McKee.
Seymour, like Peters, was very positive about progress so far saying negotiations were “very promising”.
“We’re far far, far closer than we have been at any other point today. I feel like we are on the cusp of getting a deal done.”
“But of course, that always depends on other people that you’re doing the deal with.
“Because agreement is between three and no one person can dictate how a three-person deal goes.”
Regarding suggestions that Peters had snubbed a three-way meeting with him and Luxon on Monday, Seymour said there was no such meeting planned.
Earlier today, Luxon rubbished claims of issues between National and NZ First, saying Peters’ no-show in Wellington on Tuesday was not unexpected.
The National Party leader also said negotiations were in the “final stages” as he arrived this morning at the Cordis Hotel for a meeting with several MPs and the party’s president.
Talks between National, NZ First and Act are continuing in Auckland following odd circumstances on Tuesday when it was expected the three party leaders would travel to Wellington for their first meeting all together.
While Luxon and Seymour made it south, Peters remained in Auckland. That led to Luxon and Seymour catching a late flight back to Auckland on Tuesday night.
Recent media reports had claimed Peters was unhappy with the draft deal National had put together, but Peters hadn’t stated that publicly.
Luxon today said it was never his expectation that the three leaders would meet on Tuesday, saying he went to Wellington to meet with party members based there.
”I wouldn’t over-read too much into the drama.”
Christopher Luxon arrives at the Cordis this morning. Photo / Michael Craig
Seymour had stated on Tuesday it was his understanding a meeting between the three leaders could occur that day.
Luxon said it was “absolute rubbish” to claim Peters was trying to teach the other leaders a lesson by not travelling to Wellington.
However, he didn’t give a direct answer when asked if Peters had indeed been unhappy with a draft deal, saying he wouldn’t publicly discuss conversations between the leaders.
Luxon said yesterday had been “very productive” with the first meeting of all three leaders, followed by lunch with Seymour, meeting with Act’s negotiating team in the afternoon and Peters and his chief of staff Darroch Ball in the evening.
Asked about how negotiations had now taken longer than those led by Jacinda Ardern in 2017, Luxon said: “We are making great progress, we’re in the final stages”.
He would spend this morning with National’s team, including deputy leader Nicola Willis, Auckland list MP Paul Goldsmith, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, Hutt South MP Chris Bishop and National Party president Sylvia Wood.
National Party MP Chris Bishop arrived by e-scooter at the party gathering. Photo / Michael Craig
He wouldn’t elaborate on what policy issues still remain within negotiations.
It has been widely speculated the parties are still yet to find a compromise on National’s plan to offer tax cuts and Act’s policy to hold a referendum on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The distribution of ministerial portfolios was expected to be discussed towards the end of negotiations.
Luxon said that was currently being debated but couldn’t give a timeframe on when a deal could be reached.
It’s understood National is reluctant to put a deadline on when it would want coalition talks to conclude as that could give Act and NZ First leverage.
NZ First leader Winston Peters, National's Christopher Luxon and Act's David Seymour gathered for coalition negotiations. Photo / Winston Peters
Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.
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