In damage control, Greens say they won't force new election if NZ First lock them out
Green Party co-leader James Shaw has rubbished any notion that the party would force a second election if NZ First locked them out of power.
Green MP Barry Coates floated the idea by writing that a Labour New Zealand-First Government would not be "acceptable" to the Greens in a post on The Daily Blog on Wednesday.
He was referring to a possible election scenario where National lack the numbers to govern but the Labour/Green team can't do it without NZ First - and, in a repeat of 2005, NZ First will only help Labour if the Greens are outside of Government and supporting the coalition in a confidence and supply deal.
He followed up on the comments with Newshub, telling them it "could" mean forcing another election.
It is understood that Coates has now apologised to Shaw, who went into damage control on Thursday morning.
"We would absolutely not force an early election. We are committed to changing the Government but we are only committed to changing it once in any three-year cycle," Shaw told RNZ.
"We get a lot of correspondence from people who are very worried about the influence that NZ First could have on the next government. What we have said is that it is unacceptable. That it is really important that New Zealand has a stable, responsible, and progressive government."
Shaw said any discussion of how future coalition deals could be worked out was "hypothetical" at this stage.
"We'll have to see what happens on election night."
He said the best thing to do for any left-leaning voters worried about the influence of NZ First was to vote for the Greens.
NZ First leader Winston Peters told Stuff that Shaw couldn't dismiss the comments as a "brain fade" of a single MP.
"[Coates] said that they'd had discussions in caucus, in their caucus. Mr Shaw denies that, someone is not telling the truth," Peters said.
"The second thing is the Greens have the knowledge of polls, which has them in a slide and they're not 3rd anymore, they're fourth. That's the reason why they've reacted in an attempt to try and stop what is a surge growing for NZ First and a surge it is."
He said he was surprised about how "naively arrogant" the Greens were being.
"Now the real thing is we're being attacked by all and sundry at the moment and the only common factor here is every other party is running scared at this point in time."
Labour and the the Green Party have a Memorandum of Understanding to campaign together to change the government at the election in September.
The agreement expires on election night, but Labour Party leader Andrew Little has signalled the Green Party will be the "first cab off the rank" in any coalition talks.
But on current polling Labour and the Greens could not govern without help for NZ First.
Peters, historically no fan of the Green Party, has refused to discuss whether he would again ask for them to be locked out of Government if given the option.
"I'm not having conversations with any of the other parties. We're having a conversation with the NZ people."
The tension between the two parties, who are polling about even, bubbled up over the weekend when Green Party co-leader Meteria Turei described some of NZ First's rhetoric as "racist".
Peters shot back immediately, and his new Whangarei candidate Shane Jones criticised the Green Party's new water policy on Thursday morning, saying the party should stay out of Maori issues.
"The only Greens Ngapuhi need are in their diet," Jones said.