5 Nov 2023

Election 2023: Winston Peters pledges to meet David Seymour, whose 'door is open'

4:51 pm on 5 November 2023
Winston Peters speaks at the launch of New Zealand First’s campaign for the Port Waikato by-election 5 November 2023.

Peters launches NZ First's Port Waikato by-election campaign. Photo: Katie Scotcher / RNZ

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters says he plans to meet ACT Leader David Seymour face-to-face.

Peters told reporters at his party's Port Waikato by-election campaign launch in Pukekohe today that a meeting would happen soon, but he would not say when this would occur.

"You know that I'm a people person - I'd rather see someone in person than do it over the phone."

Peters did not respond to questions about whether someone in another party was sharing what was happening in behind the scenes talks, and whether that was David Seymour.

"I'm not going to talk about the coalition. I believe in dealing in confidence with the other side. They know that I'll keep my word about not divulging what the conversation is about. When it's all over you're going to find out first."

Today's comments come as National's efforts to form a new government with ACT and New Zealand First continue behind the scenes.

Coalition talks were also on the agenda at an ACT Party retreat in Auckland today.

National's loss of two seats in the special votes, meant the National/ACT majority was too slim and it needed Winston Peters' party.

Seymour said his MPs had been discussing the three-way arrangement.

"They're talking as well about the formation of a new government because that is the major work that we have to do, people have trusted us with their party vote, they chose real change and it's our job to get results for them."

ACT came in fourth in the party vote with just over 8.5 percent, but looks to get into government with National.

Seymour said he was not concerned that New Zealand First and Peters had not responded to ACT's efforts to contact them.

"As has been reported, ACT has reached out to New Zealand First. I've reached out personally to Winston Peters.

"The door is open for them to return those calls because ultimately all three parties will need to work together.

"We're planning a government for three years, so if it takes them a bit of time, that's fine.

"What is clear, is that ACT, having spent the last couple of weeks negotiating on some detail and working hard with National, has an agenda and a policy programme ready to go and we look forward to welcoming New Zealand First into being part of that agenda because New Zealand needs us to work together."

Speaking in Pukekohe this afternoon, Peters said that he had been texted by someone from the ACT Party offering to meet, but they did not identify themselves, which is why he did not respond at the time.

An ACT representative told RNZ that the party had not received an invitation to meet with Peters yet and the sender of the text to Peters did identify themselves.

Peters said that the cost of living would remain the main focus of their by-election campaign.

"Across the country it was the biggest issue and it still is; it has to be addressed. We are putting to the people of this electorate that you can send Wellington a message to entrench their concern."

Asked if he was pleased to be again in a king-maker position following the final election result, he said his coalition partners had to be "realistic" about governing without the support of NZ First.

"Did they honestly think they could pull this off? Because if they did think that then they're not fit to be in government."

Peters and Seymour clashed during debates prior to the election, with Seymour saying at one point he wasn't sure he could trust Peters.

NZ First's 6 percent of the party vote and 8 MPs are critical to forming the next government.

On Friday when final votes were released, Seymour went back on previous statements that working with Peters around the Cabinet table would be impossible.

He has previously said it was "impossible to see us sitting around the Cabinet table" but - speaking to media - seemed to have come around.

"Yes, I think that's possible," he said on Friday.

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