14 Nov 2023

Coalition talks stretch on one month past election day

7:06 pm on 14 November 2023
Collage of Christopher Luxon, David Seymour, and Winston Peters looking towards the Beehive

Winston Peters, David Seymour and Christopher Luxon will all meet Wednesday. Photo: RNZ

In a significant step forward in negotiations to form a government, the leaders of ACT, National and New Zealand First are planning to get together to meet for the first time Wednesday.

There were indications it could happen today but New Zealand First leader Winston Peters did not travel to Wellington, where National's Christopher Luxon and ACT's David Seymour spent the day.

RNZ understands there is still a bit of work to do before a final deal can be secured, and while there are some policy areas still to be agreed, it is getting to the point where leaders are going back and forth over the wording of the agreements.

It is understood Peters was presented with a proposal by National at the end of last week, but found it unacceptable so meetings and calls with both of the other leaders have continued over the weekend and today.

Luxon, Seymour and Peters have met separately, but all three have not yet met as coalition talks enter their second week.

Earlier, the caretaker government confirmed outgoing trade minister Damien O'Connor will represent New Zealand at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in San Francisco this week.

Luxon had hoped to go to APEC as incoming prime minister, but said his priority was staying in New Zealand to try to form a strong and stable government.

National confirmed earlier today that Luxon would not attend the summit.

The party also has no plans to send an observer - unlike the Pacific Islands Forum last week, when foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee attended in that capacity.

Peters not in Wellington for talks today

Senior New Zealand First MP Shane Jones confirmed party leader Winston Peters was not in Wellington for talks today.

The leaders of National and ACT arrived in the capital on Tuesday morning.

ACT leader David Seymour earlier said it was "very possible" that the leaders of the three parties looking to form a government would meet today.

All the party leaders have been meeting one-on-one, but have yet to all get in the same room together.

But later on Tuesday, Jones told reporters that Peters was not in Wellington.

"But the caucus are down here and we're flat out on our various bits and pieces."

Jones said Peters' absence from Wellington was not health-related.

"No, no, no, one shouldn't catastrophise. These are negotiations that are ongoing."

Jones said Peters would arrive in Wellington "at the appointed hour" and work was happening "despite the physical absence of our rangatira."

'Happy to meet anyone, anytime' - Seymour

Arriving in Wellington on Tuesday, Seymour told waiting reporters each party has issues the others do not like very much, and each knows they will have to come to a compromise.

"Our hope is that happens as rapidly as possible," he said.

"Everyone says they want it to go faster - I certainly do, I think a lot of people watching and listening would love to see this be got on with - but equally no one person can decide how a negotiation between three ends, or when it ends ... ultimately, three have to agree."

He was asked if they would all be meeting together today.

"I think that's very possible, we're certainly very happy to meet anyone, anytime, and we're all in Wellington now so that's got to make it easier.

"I think there may well be a meeting of three, yes."

He also alluded to discussions about the state of the economy, pointing to expectations the Emissions Trading Scheme auction of units next month could mean government revenue falls about $1 billion short.

"That creates another hurdle I guess," he said. "I think what's critical is the budget has to balance, we can't keep borrowing and spending - that drives inflation, it drives mortgage rates, it makes people's lives much harder as a result.

"But nevertheless the numbers have to stack up. ACT has always said that if you're prepared to spend less, you can balance a budget and tax less without adding new taxes. That's the kind of question that I guess we've got to work through this week."

ACT leader David Seymour leaves NZ First's offices after a brief meeting with Winston Peters.

ACT leader David Seymour leaves NZ First's offices after a brief meeting with Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

'Lots to do this week' - Luxon

Luxon, also arriving at the airport on Tuesday morning, had little to say about the negotiations.

"We've got a great week ahead of us, we're going to make some progress," he said.

"We're making great progress, we've got lots to do this week and we're going to make sure we get a strong, stable government for New Zealand.

"We're making great progress."

NZ First MP Mark Patterson was the first to appear at the party's temporary offices across from Parliament, and told reporters "things have ground to a little bit of a halt in terms of our visibility here".

"So we're looking forward to seeing how they've progressed."

He would not comment on the party's position on National's foreign buyers tax, but said "I look forward to a briefing today".

ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden, also landing in the capital, said she was looking forward to meetings lined up for today.

"Negotiations are negotiations and I look forward to the meetings that we've got today," she said.

"I think it's possible that there could be a deal by the end of the week, or even next week, but that's what the ongoing talks are about ... every day is a new day."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs