By Alex Tarrant
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said at about 1pm Thursday that a decision should be made in a “few hours” after his caucus had one final chance to review the two “final” offers on the table.
Speaking to media in Bowen House, he reiterated that the decision is one for the party – meaning he wouldn’t talk for what his colleagues were thinking. He said it was an anxious time, individually as well as collectively for the caucus.
He said there were pros and cons relating to the offers from Labour and National, and that the outcome would not be perfect for NZ First – due to the nature of negotiation processes.
Peters was asked whether New Zealand First had been in communication with National and Labour over ongoing negotiations and potentially further concessions: “Not in the nature you put that question, no,” he said.
“But we are not very far away from finality. And we’re just going to have a bite to eat, and then come back and put it all on the table and make a decision.”
There had been communication with the two parties “all the time, all along,” he later said.
Peters said the major focus had been on the decision, not what happened after it, when asked the nature of how the decision would be announced Thursday afternoon. He had not decided whether he’ll inform the leaders of the major parties of his decision before public announcement.
“The decision is everything, and other matters are extraneous, and they’ll sort themselves out once we’ve made a decision.”
He said the process was difficult. There were “pros and cons for every part of this decision we’ve got to make, and we’ll only get one more chance to evaluate what it means, both ways.”
He was asked whether that was because there were two good deals on the table and had been offered a lot? “Depends what your perspective is,” he said.
“Let’s be honest, no negotiation ends up perfectly, the way you’d like it. If it was the way you liked it, there’d never be any negotiation in the first place.”
He said he was out on his way to breakfast (this was just before 1pm). “We’ll go back, we’ve got a few hours to go…we hope to complete it.”
He said New Zealand First had come into the negotiations with a “seriously open mind.” He continued that he couldn’t say what his colleagues were thinking, but that they were all going to matter in what they said, adding it is a party decision.
He said the deals being looked at today were seriously final.
Asked whether there was a chance NZ First didn’t make a decision today: “I hope not.” But he said he still wouldn’t rule it out – “you never know what might blow in the next couple of hours.” In politics, things changed by the hour.
“Policy is everything. Always has been,” was the response to a question of whether his caucus might get sidetracked by any positions on offer.
Asked whether the mood within the party was positive: “When you’re going into discussions with grave uncertainties, that are both personal and as a group of people, it’s a very, very anxious time.”