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'Significant milestone': New coalition Govt imminent as policy deal largely settled

Author
Adam Pearse,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Nov 2023, 7:30am
National's Nicola Willis and Christopher Luxon have not let the Auckland rain cast a dampener on coalition talks. Photo / Michael Craig
National's Nicola Willis and Christopher Luxon have not let the Auckland rain cast a dampener on coalition talks. Photo / Michael Craig

'Significant milestone': New coalition Govt imminent as policy deal largely settled

Author
Adam Pearse,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Nov 2023, 7:30am

The policy agenda of the next Government appears all but established as one of the three party leaders involved in coalition talks predicts a final deal could be signed in “a day or so”. 

Incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon finally gave a substantive update on negotiations yesterday, declaring National had finalised matters regarding policy with Act and New Zealand First. 

While both Act’s David Seymour and NZ First’s Winston Peters clarified there were still final checks to be done including briefing party boards, all three leaders appeared to agree conversations about policy differences were largely behind them after more than two weeks of talks following the publication of the final election result. 

Still to come was confirmation that Act and NZ First agreed to the deals each other had struck with National. Peters, who saw Act’s deal on Sunday night, had been discussing it with Seymour yesterday morning and didn’t voice any concerns. 

The makeup of Cabinet and allocation of ministerial portfolios were now the final major hurdles left in negotiations. 

Luxon said he and Peters had talked about ministerial posts during their 90-minute discussion at Auckland’s Cordis Hotel yesterday, but wouldn’t specify how far the pair had progressed. 

Peters was coy upon leaving the hotel, saying the matter was a “work in progress”. 

The confirmation that policy issues were largely resolved came after talks appeared stuck in what leaders called the “final stages” since Thursday. 

Luxon, Seymour and Peters had talked in Auckland since Wednesday, holding regular meetings at two hotels and over the phone. The three leaders had been unable to give any meaningful update for several days as the parties debated a few remaining policy disagreements. 

However, Luxon yesterday afternoon lauded the “significant milestone” of having “closed down and agreed policy programmes” with Act and NZ First. 

“That’s a major achievement,” he said. 

“I really do appreciate everybody’s patience with the process, but I do believe it will actually make for a much stronger Government.” 

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had a 90-minute meeting with National Party leader Christopher Luxon at Auckland's Cordis Hotel on Monday afternoon. Photo / Michael CraigNew Zealand First leader Winston Peters had a 90-minute meeting with National Party leader Christopher Luxon at Auckland's Cordis Hotel on Monday afternoon. Photo / Michael Craig 

He accepted all parties had made trade-offs in order to reach agreements. 

Peters initially appeared unaware Luxon would make such a statement to media and didn’t answer questions until after his meeting yesterday with the National Party leader. 

On his way out, Peters clarified there was still some cross-checking required and other “logistics” to address. 

Seymour, speaking to Newstalk ZB yesterday evening, said Luxon did not jump the gun but could have been too enthusiastic. 

“[Luxon] potentially woke up and had too many Weet-Bix. He’s not entirely wrong, we are very very close, but there are a few ‘i’s to dot and ‘t’s to cross before we finish the policy part of it.” 

Seymour noted nothing had been signed yet, as the respective leaders were yet to bring the agreed policies back to their parties. 

“Until you do those things, you haven’t actually agreed,” Seymour said. 

“It would not quite be accurate to say the deal had been completed out of respect to [the rest of their parties].” 

Act leader David Seymour has conducted his meetings with National largely over the phone in recent days. Photo / Alex BurtonAct leader David Seymour has conducted his meetings with National largely over the phone in recent days. Photo / Alex Burton 

Seymour, who had earlier predicted there was every chance the next Government would be formed last week, was reluctant to suggest when a deal would be finalised but, when pushed, accepted it could be “a day or so away”. 

Alongside ministerial positions, the role of Deputy Prime Minister would be confirmed in conversations to come. 

The contentious nature of that appointment had been widely reported, given Seymour, Peters and National deputy leader Nicola Willis were all said to be in the running and the decision would affect the power balance between the three parties. 

Neither Seymour nor Peters answered whether they had been named in the role. 

Luxon, who had in previous days confirmed no talks of the role had been held with NZ First, yesterday refused to say whether the matter had come up in his meeting with Peters. 

It was expected the final announcement of the new Government would take place in Wellington. Luxon refrained from speculating when that could be. 

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 Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime. 

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