National and ACT would need Winston Peters' support to form a government under the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll.
- National: 39.1 percent, down 1.8 points (49 seats)
- Labour: 26.5 percent, down 0.3 points (33 seats)
- Greens: 14.2 percent, up 1.9 points (18 seats)
- ACT: 8.8 percent, down 1.3 points (11 seats)
- NZ First: 5.2 percent, up 0.6 points (6 seats)
- Te Pāti Māori: 2.2 percent, down 0.9 points (3 seats)
- TOP: 1.9 percent, up 1.2 points
- New Conservatives: 1.1 percent
Between them, National and ACT would have 60 seats, just short of the 61 needed to form a government and requiring the support of NZ First's Winston Peters.
Luxon confirmed on Monday National would form a government with NZ First if required, but his first preference would be for a two-party coalition with ACT.
"If New Zealand First is returned to Parliament and I need to pick up the phone to Mr Peters to keep Labour and the coalition of chaos out, I will make that call. And frankly, I think Chris Hipkins will ultimately do exactly the same thing."
The left bloc of Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori falls well short of governing, with just 54 seats between them. Peters and Labour's have Chris Hipkins ruled out working with one another.
On the preferred prime minister stakes, National's Christopher Luxon has also risen, clearly overtaking Hipkins - who dropped 3.4 percentage points.
- Christopher Luxon: 24 percent, up 1.5 points
- Chris Hipkins: 19.1 percent, down 3.4 points
- David Seymour: 6.1 percent, down 0.9 points
- Winston Peters: 6 percent, up 1.4 points
- Chlöe Swarbrick: 4.4 percent, up 1.2 points
The previous Newshub-Reid Research poll a fortnight ago had National up 4.3 points to 40.9 percent, and Labour down 5.5 points to 26.8 percent.
The poll surveyed about 1000 eligible voters between 17 and 23 September and was weighted for demographics, with a margin of error of 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.
Minor parties shuffle: Greens up, ACT down
The biggest shifts in the party vote were the 1.9-point lift for the Greens, and the respective 1.8 and 1.3 percentage point drops for National and ACT.
Political editor Jane Patterson told RNZ's Checkpoint the Greens were likely picking up some of the support of left-leaning voters disillusioned with Labour - but with the major party falling were on track for the opposition benches.
"So they'll be looking at a strengthened caucus, which does help in terms of resourcing, in terms of number [of MPs] and heft - even in opposition - but really unless they have a very strong Labour Party it's not going to advantage them in terms of a path to government."
She agreed ACT leader David Seymour floating the possibility of a confidence-only deal could have been partly behind that party's fall, although Seymour had been clear his preference was to work directly with National.
The polling period also included TVNZ's first head-to-head Leaders' debate with Hipkins and Luxon, and the Newshub Powerbrokers' debate between minor party leaders.
"We saw David Seymour and Winston Peters on the same stage and I think it was dawning on them even at that point that they needed to be showing that they could be constructive working partners, even if they had maybe different ways of showing it that night," Patterson said.
Patterson said some of Hipkins' decisions around the wealth and capital gains tax policies were debatable in terms of popularity, but the months of personnel scandals that dogged Labour was probably more damaging.
"I think that really chipped away at the cumulative view of Labour in terms of competence and just the calibre of their ministerial lineup at that point, and Chris Hipkins as leader."
Voters could also be disillusioned the more centrist path Hipkins had taken Labour in, in a bid to contest closely with National.
Working with Peters was never really much of an option for Hipkins, however, with NZ First having ruled out working with Labour again very early on.
Hipkins ruled out working with New Zealand First if re-elected, saying their values did not align with Labour's.
On Monday, he described a National-New Zealand First-ACT government as a "three-headed monster".
Peters has often said voters would ultimately have the final say, however.
Patterson said National would have seen NZ First's steady rise in the polls, and the decision to keep that option open had not hurt them much, but NZ First was relying on a different constituency.
That would likely mean the party would be unlikely to always listen to Luxon.