Christopher Luxon isn’t sure whether National and NZ First can work out their policy differences today, as negotiations continue in Auckland.
National Party leader Luxon, arriving at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland alongside deputy leader Nicola Willis, confirmed meetings had been arranged with NZ First leader Winston Peters and Act leader David Seymour today.
They would occur after National’s negotiating team met this morning to discuss yesterday’s talks and how they would approach meetings today.
National, Act and New Zealand First are going line-by-line through proposals worked up between the parties as a deal appears close to being finalised, with Seymour saying the deputy PM role is being discussed.
Yesterday, sessions with Peters and Seymour lasted more than two hours each.
National leader Christopher Luxon and deputy leader Nicola Willis arrive at the Cordis in Auckland for further talks on forming the next government. Photo / Dean Purcell
The meeting with Peters was purely on policy matters as the two parties were yet to discuss ministerial positions - something Luxon wanted to keep for the end of negotiations.
Luxon today said there had been talks with Act regarding ministerial portfolio allocation but “just in very loose terms”.
He wouldn’t speculate on which of NZ First’s policies National wouldn’t entertain.
Seymour yesterday said he believed his party’s policy to hold a referendum on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi was still a “live possibility”, despite National not supporting it.
Luxon, renowned for not going into detail when speaking to media, would not answer whether he thought the policy was a live possibility at this stage in negotiations.
He also wouldn’t put a date on when he expected a deal to be finalised. He expected he would stay in Auckland for the weekend and would return to Wellington when they were ready.
Luxon said yesterday he would want to outline confirmed governing arrangements from Wellington.
Luxon had previously referenced his experience with mergers and acquisitions when he worked for Unilever and Air New Zealand as evidence of his ability to secure a deal with Act and NZ First.
Asked about that experience, Luxon wouldn’t go into specifics but said he’d learned the importance of taking the appropriate time to reach an agreement.
He did acknowledge that when he became Air NZ chief executive, he sold the airline’s position in Virgin Australia Airlines.
Arriving at the Cordis hotel in Auckland today, National Party MP Chris Bishop told reporters he opted not to travel in on a scooter this morning after yesterday’s debacle, where he fell off and spilled his coffee.
Today he was holding two coffees which appeared to be unspilt.
National Party MP Chris Bishop arriving at the Cordis for coalition talks. Photo / Dean Purcell
Bishop would not say whether there would be a coalition deal today.
“Let’s wait and see, we’re making progress.”
“Good things take time.”
Bishop said National is “getting on well” with Peters.
Bishop said it was up to Luxon to decide whether the party would commit to a three-way government for the entirety of their elected term.
Some arrangements have taken days to decide on and some have taken longer, Bishop said.
On whether National’s deal with Act was more advanced than the deal with NZ First, Bishop said he “wouldn’t characterise it like that.”
“It is what is it, it’s a complicated set of circumstances that the voters have delivered up to us.”
Fellow MP Simeon Brown remained coy about the details, but said they were “getting close.”
Fellow MP Simeon Brown remained coy about the details, but said they were “getting close”. Photo / Dean Purcell
He said the party does not have any plans at this stage to make announcements by this coming Monday.
“Everyone’s fully engaged in the negotiations, multiple meetings and going through the process, and there’ll be more meetings today.”
Brown repeatedly said there were “various people in various meetings” and wouldn’t narrow down his personal role in the negotiations.
National Party president Sylvia Wood also arrived but didn’t make a statement to media.
Partial deal done - Seymour
Seymour this morning refused to answer outright if he trusts Winston Peters - having called him New Zealand’s least trustworthy politician during the election campaign.
“Whatever statements we’ve had on the campaign trail aren’t going to help us work together and solve the problems that people have asked us to solve over the next 1000 days,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning.
“The people have asked us to trust each other … so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Seymour said Act had “partially” got a deal done with National and he was “pretty close” to a deal to take to the board this weekend but it wasn’t certain. But any deal needed to be between three parties.
Asked if Peters was behind the hold-up, Seymour said it would be unfair to blame any particular person.
He expected to meet with NZ First more than once in the coming days, including today.
“We’ve met them just about every day this week.”
Seymour appeared to confirm that the idea of him being deputy Prime Minister had been discussed, but it was one among many options, and he would not go into details out of respect for his negotiating partners.
Leaders finalising agreement details
Extended talks took place yesterday at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland where National’s negotiating team was based. NZ First leader Winston Peters and Act leader David Seymour arrived for separate meetings in the afternoon after National had had its own discussions.
It was expected today’s schedule would be similar to yesterday, with talks likely to continue in Auckland.
Peters, flanked by his ever-present chief of staff Darroch Ball, spent close to three hours in a room with National leader Christopher Luxon and deputy leader Nicola Willis.
After emerging from the meeting room, Peters said the two parties were yet to agree completely on policy, and therefore had not moved on to discussing the make-up of Cabinet and ministerial positions, which was expected to be among the final things to determine before securing a deal.
National’s tax plan, which included allowing foreign buyers into the upper end of the housing market, and Act’s Treaty of Waitangi referendum had been regularly cited as points of contention between the future governing parties.
Also understood to be an issue was the structure of the deal struck between the three parties. National had largely been negotiating and developing agreements with Act and NZ First separately, instead of one agreement locking in support from all parties.
Seymour, who entered his meeting about 5.30pm alongside Act deputy leader Brooke van Velden and third-ranked MP Nicole McKee, said he felt the parties were on the “cusp” of a deal but cautioned reporters, reminding them he could not speak for Luxon and Peters.
“The parties have to cross-check different deals, the parties all have to go back and check with their stakeholders, the board.
”Those are things that have to happen and could take a couple of days. But in terms of getting the substance done, I think we’re in a good place.”
NZ First leader Winston Peters was in a jovial mood as he arrived at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland for talks with National. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Unlike NZ First, Seymour said there had been discussion with National about ministerial posts alongside remaining policy hurdles.
He added a three-party coalition was his preferred arrangement but indicated other arrangements had been discussed.
”I think in a lot of ways it would be the best arrangement with all three parties who are in a coalition but I’m just one and I can’t dictate what the others do, so that’s a question I can really only answer on behalf of Act.”
Seymour emerged two hours later saying the deputy PM role was being discussed and he believed a deal could be inked by Sunday.
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.”
On Wednesday at Auckland’s Pullman Hotel, Peters met with Luxon and his team for more than two hours in the evening, followed by a similarly long meeting yesterday.
National MPs Chris Bishop, Paul Goldsmith and Simeon Brown, along with party president Sylvia Wood, were not included in the meeting and waited in the hotel lobby.
However, Peters did make the effort to shake their hands on leaving the Cordis.
Peters adamantly hosed down speculation he had stood both Luxon and Seymour up by not travelling to Wellington on Tuesday when it was expected the three leaders would meet.
He claimed he had rescheduled flights after Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had called to arrange a meeting in Auckland following his attendance at the Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga.
Luxon, who spent eight minutes speaking with media yesterday morning, said any suggestion Peters was sending a message to the two other leaders by his no-show in Wellington was “absolute rubbish”.
National leader Christopher Luxon spent eight minutes speaking to media yesterday morning about the progress of negotiations. Photo / Michael Craig
Peters also revealed he and representatives of Act had met daily over the past five days, but said little except that the meetings were “very positive”.
Of talks with National, Peters said they were “positive” but “hard work”.
“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,” Peters said.
“This is normal and when we’ve got the facts all sorted out and agreed on, we can announce the results.
“Anything else in between time, of course, is to divulge private information which just breeds distrust.”
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.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you