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'We came back big time': In testy victory lap Winston Peters berates media, remains coy about future

Author
Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Sun, 15 Oct 2023, 3:32PM
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters addresses reporters outside the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell on Sunday, one day after voters returned his party to Parliament. Photo / Michael Cunningham
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters addresses reporters outside the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell on Sunday, one day after voters returned his party to Parliament. Photo / Michael Cunningham

'We came back big time': In testy victory lap Winston Peters berates media, remains coy about future

Author
Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Sun, 15 Oct 2023, 3:32PM

During a brief, testy confrontation with media this morning, Winston Peters remained cryptic about what role his newly resurrected New Zealand First party will play in the next government. 

“We’ve got to talk to my colleagues first, and then we’ve got to decide what we’re going to do and what we’re doing it with,” the longtime politician said. 

With the numbers tight, it’s not yet certain if National and ACT will be able to take charge - just barely - without New Zealand First as a coalition partner or whether Peters will again play the role of kingmaker. It’s a role he knows well, having put Jacinda Ardern in the top spot in 2017 when Labour and the Greens did not garner enough votes until they wooed Peters to their camp. 

Peters said today he hasn’t yet had a chance to consult with his party colleagues about what direction they will take now that New Zealand First will return to Parliament after a three-year absence. But whatever the role, it’s unlikely to be a rubber stamp for National policies, he hinted. 

“Make no bones about it, they didn’t last night see the New Zealand people, nor in this campaign, just what an economic and social crisis this country’s in,” he said. “I regret that, because ... they’ll wake up and start seeing what they didn’t know. And when they do, some of the promises you heard in this campaign won’t be worth confetti.” 

Peters began today’s press conference in Russell, which lasted barely five minutes, in his trademark jousting mood - not just with other politicians but with the reporters, whom he implored to ask “a decent question”. 

His face lit up when asked to describe his campaign. 

“We were Cinderella-ised, marginalised, shut out by the mainstream media the whole way, and you guys have failed,” he said, flashing a smile. 

He noted that ACT was able to raise eight dollars for every dollar New Zealand First had in its coffers, which he attributed in part to the “corrupt media”. 

“And we still came back big time,” he continued. 

Winston Peters addresses the media in Russell, one day after after voters returned New Zealand First to Parliament. Photo / Michael CunninghamWinston Peters addresses the media in Russell, one day after after voters returned New Zealand First to Parliament. Photo / Michael Cunningham 

This year’s campaign has been the toughest fight in the past 45 years, he said. 

“We were given no chance, and it showed in our lack of coverage and demonising on New Zeland First,” he said. “But you know, we still won.” 

He also had a jab at media commentators who suggested a 78-year-old man may not represent the future of New Zealand, quipping with a laugh: “Well, they’re not the future of this country and they never were. They never did have a use-by date.” 

One group the veteran political brawler did not have a go at were New Zealand First voters, despite fickle support over the past three years that saw the party on the precipice of extinction before rising to prominence again last night. To them, he said only: “Thank you.” 

Peters said he’ll head to Wellington after his team is inducted over the next couple of days. As for a decision about the party’s future, he expects to hold his cards close while the remaining votes are counted over the next month. 

“Do the maths then wait,” he said, suggesting confidence that no one will be writing the party off as irrelevant this year. “Then you’re going to find out what you don’t know and you have not been saying the last few days, the last few hours.” 

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