Incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has confirmed he has spoken with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
Luxon told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that he had spoken to the leaders of both parties that could potentially join National in Government – New Zealand First and ACT. He wouldn’t say how many times he has spoken with Peters.
While remaining mostly quiet on how coalition discussions have been progressing, Luxon did say conversations were “going well” and he was “pleased” with their direction.
“[I’m] not getting into any of it,” he said.
“I know that’s not probably the answer any of you want to hear at this point in time. The New Zealand people charged us on election night, under our MMP system, to go to work and make sure we have got strong and stable Government. That’s what we want to do, that’s what we are doing.
“We are using the time between now and the special votes coming through to make sure we are progressing those relationships and those arrangements.”
On preliminary results, National and ACT collectively have 61 seats, which is a one-seat majority. With special votes to be released on November 3, there is a high chance those two parties may lose at least one seat, meaning it needs New Zealand First to govern.
National may also want to bring New Zealand First into the tent even if it’s needed to form a Government. With a one-seat majority, the Government would be on shaky foundations if one of its MPs faced a scandal or had to stand down, forcing a by-election.
For most of the year, Luxon refused to say whether he could work with Peters, but during the campaign made it clear he would as a “last resort”. His preference was for a National-ACT Government.
While he wouldn’t commit to it, Luxon said he was “open” to making any coalition agreement documents public.
“Different Governments and different parties have done it differently in the past. My focus right now is actually getting to a point where we have got a Government that is strong and stable, and we are very open to that.”
ACT leader David Seymour said on Monday morning he had “no problem” in releasing any agreements made between the parties.
In 2017, a 33-page coalition document between Labour and New Zealand First was kept secret from the public. Then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it didn’t need to be released under freedom of information laws as it wasn’t official information. Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier agreed, saying it was held by Ardern as Labour leader, rather than Prime Minister.