New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has arrived at a central Auckland hotel 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.
Peters arrived at the Cordis Hotel just after 2.30pm. Smiling as he exited 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”.
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”.
Winston Peters arrives for talks at Auckland's Cordis Hotel with National on Thursday afternoon.
”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”.
It is expected National will also meet with Act this afternoon.
Earlier today, incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon rubbished claims of issues between National and New Zealand First, saying Peters’ no show in Wellington on Tuesday was not unexpected.
The National 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 Act leader David 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, however, 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 MP Paul Goldsmith arrives at The Cordis hotel on Thursday morning. Photo / Michael Craig
National MP Chris Bishop arrived by e-scooter to the party gathering. Photo / Michael Craig
Luxon said it was likely there would be further meetings between National and the other two parties this afternoon, but wasn’t sure whether another three-way leaders meeting would occur today.
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.
Act leader confident a deal is ‘close’
Seymour says he is confident that a deal to form a Government would be made in the next few days.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking Breakfast show this morning, he acknowledged the country was frustrated by how long coalition talks are taking, saying Kiwis have been waiting a long time.
“We’re not quite at a 5m scrum mark but we’re well within the 22,” said Seymour.
“New Zealand faces enormous challenges and needs a Government that gets stuck in, I wish it was already done.”
Seymour said going back to the polls would be “nuclear”.
He said he felt like his party had done its best to show up at the table.
He remained coy about what was talked about around the table but that the disagreements had been narrowed down.
NZ First leader Winston Peters, National's Christopher Luxon and Act's David Seymour have gathered today for coalition negotiations. Photo / Winston Peters
Talks set to continue
Following the meeting between Luxon, Seymour and Peters yesterday morning at the Pullman Hotel, talks between the parties continued into the afternoon.
In their later one-on-one talks, it’s understood Peters handed Luxon a revised version of the document for their agreement, and the two parties were now spending some time going back through it.
It’s expected there will be an intensive meeting schedule today. It’s unclear whether the three Auckland-based leaders would shift back down to Wellington to continue negotiating.
With the next government’s policy platform yet to be finalised, there appeared little confidence a deal would definitely be reached before the week is out.
Winston Peters is seen leaving the Pullman Hotel carpark, in downtown Auckland during coalition talk negotiations with Christopher Luxon and David Seymour. Photo / Hayden Woodward
Sepuloni: Slow negotiations raise questions
Caretaker deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the difficulty of the new Government reaching a coalition deal indicates how difficult it might be for the three parties to work together going forward.
“The time that it has taken that bringing those three parties together is not going to be easy which I think speaks volumes of what might happen going forward,” she told RNZ.
“It’s very difficult and I don’t think they are even trying too much to pretend that it is not difficult.”
Sepuloni said in the meantime she has been enjoying the Auckland sun whilst engaging with her constituents.
“We’re just waiting, waiting like the rest of the country,” she said.
“As an Auckland MP, I am going to keep getting out to enjoy Auckland and doing the work that I need to.”
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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