Winston Peters has travelled from his first three-way meeting with his impending coalition partners at Auckland’s Pullman Hotel to dine on Auckland’s waterfront, as National leader Christopher Luxon has yet to be seen leaving the building.
New Zealand First leader Peters was jovial but steadfast in his refusal to comment on negotiations as he walked out of a downtown restaurant after a morning spent in coalition talks.
He earlier sped past waiting media at the Pullman Hotel, also ignoring questions, as he headed to lunch.
Later, as he left Swashbucklers Restaurant on the Auckland waterfront at 1.50pm, he threw his arms up when the Herald asked him about this morning’s meeting with ACT’s David Seymour and National’s Christopher Luxon.
“Did you call and make an appointment?” Peters asked.
“No? So you thought you’d just waylay me, alright? Well, it doesn’t work,” he told the Herald.
Peters then got into his car with two others and left.
Act Party leader David Seymour has described today’s milestone meeting with Luxon and Peters as short, but “wonderful”.
The three leaders of National, Act and NZ First finally met all together today - the first time they were all been in a room together in more than a month during coalition talks.
The meeting only lasted about half an hour, with Seymour saying it was too short to deal with major substantive discussions.
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But he said despite its brevity, it was still important to have had the meeting.
“It was a milestone of having the three leaders that will, in some way, make up the Government meet. It was an important step,” Seymour said.
“It gets us one step closer to having a government signed off.”
Seymour would not say if a further meeting had been held. The parties are now expected to continue their talks in Auckland this week.
Before the meeting started, all three leaders posted a photo of them gathered to social media.
“Good meeting. There’s still work to do - but making serious progress to forming a government to deliver for Kiwis,” said Luxon in his post.
“A government is forming. Act is here to ensure it is a government of real change,” said Seymour.
Peters posted his without comment but was the quickest of the three, a full six minutes ahead.
NZ First leader Winston Peters, National's Christopher Luxon and Act's David Seymour have gathered today for coalition negotiations. Photo / Winston Peters
Today’s meeting was arranged after a no-show by Peters in Wellington on Tuesday.
Details of the meeting were kept under wraps, but Luxon was seen leaving Parliament in a hurry yesterday with MPs Paul Goldsmith and Simeon Brown and later spotted boarding a flight to Auckland, along with Seymour.
On Wednesday morning, Luxon could be seen at his Auckland home preparing for the important day ahead.
He left around 8.30am in the back of a four-wheel drive without talking to the waiting media.
Sources warned that despite the milestone meeting, it does not mean a deal is imminent, and talks could stretch into the weekend or next week.
Seymour expressed some frustration with Peters’ no-show in Wellington, saying on Newstalk ZB that he had expected a meeting, but one of the leaders - Peters - appeared to have instead “gone off the beaten track”.
“I thought we’d have it today, but it turned out we didn’t have three people in one city. As soon as we meet that pre-requisite, it’s a lot more likely. If that sounds frustrating, I feel the same way you do.”
He did not believe Peters was just playing it for time, saying no party wanted to be blamed for the length of time it was taking.
In his only comments to media on Tuesday, Luxon repeated his line that he was certain he would get a “strong, stable government.”
“We’ve got lots to do this week, and [we’re] gonna make sure we get a strong, stable government for New Zealand.”
Luxon also made a final decision not to go to the Apec summit in San Francisco, which would have required him to be sworn in as Prime Minister by Wednesday night.
That decision removed the initial informal deadline the parties had been working towards. While it has allowed more time to work on the nuts and bolts of the agreements, it also risked seeding the impression the talks were dragging on and could be at a stalemate.
Peters was believed to be working on a draft agreement presented to him by National last week, elements of which he was not happy with.
Seymour said that nobody could yet say when an agreement might be reached, but no one party was to blame for any hold-up.
“Ultimately, three have to agree and everyone can get into the blame game of saying ‘Well, you know, it’s those guys.’ I think it’s fair to say that each party has issues that the other one doesn’t like so much. I think each party knows they’re going to have to come to compromise.”
Both Act and NZ First have pointed to National’s tax package as a problem area.
Despite both National and NZ First saying they did not agree with Act’s call for a referendum on the principles of the Treaty, Seymour told Newstalk ZB it was “very much” still on the table.
However, he said there was more than one way to achieve the same result. He also voiced approval for NZ First’s approach of stripping back references to the principles of the Treaty in laws and the application of them by the judiciary.
Claire Trevett is the NZ Herald’s political editor, based at Parliament in Wellington. She started at the Herald in 2003 and joined the Press Gallery team in 2007. She is a life member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
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