Winston Peters wraps up policy negotiations with National and Labour
With negotiations wrapped up, NZ First leader Winston Peters will hold an all-day meeting with his party today.
Peters said on Thursday all the policy concessions have been worked through.
An all-day caucus meeting on Friday would deal with what ministerial portfolios the party wants.
That meant there would need to be further discussions with the parties but Peters said that would be done thorough via phone calls or text and it was unlikely any more face-to-face meetings would be needed.
* Winston Peters will take both options to the NZ First board after Thursday night
* OPINION: The faceless few who get to decide the next Government
* Winston Peters wraps up policy negotiations with National and Labour
"I'm very very pleased we've got it finished. We've got a serious comprehensive dossier from both sides and there's some fiscals to be shared to make sure we do agree but the substantive part for discussion of caucus tomorrow has been done," he said following the final negotiation meeting on Thursday.
Peters expects to be able to get the board together once a board member has attended a tangi they need to be at.
That meant Saturday, Sunday and Monday were still all options.
"Any communication now will be between key officers and key operatives on either side so we can sort it out by phone call and text communication."
All nine permutations were still on the table at this point.
Peters said it would have been a "charming experience" to have got through the negotiations without having to "run the gauntlet every day", which at times he said was "embarrassing" because he'd had to repeatedly explain he couldn't say anything.
The meetings had been held in a neutral meeting room because he didn't want it to look like he had "forced" National and Labour to come to him.
Peters said the weight on his and his party's shoulders hadn't lifted yet.
There wouldn't be a "Dutch auction" but there could be some "clarifications" needed with both parties.
"We'll put our cards on the table we'll treat them with total confidentiality...we'll give them a fair hearing."
Asked whether the public would know who the government is by the end of next week, Peters said yes.
"Now would you write that on the wall please?"
'WE HAVE A GOOD UNDERSTANDING'
When Jacinda Ardern emerged from Labour's last coalition meeting with NZ First, she said she was happy with the process, and the talks marked another "good round of policy discussion".
"We have a good understanding, I think, of one another's position on a whole range of areas...
"I found it a really positive, helpful process, a good basis on which both parties can analyse what we have in common, what we can build from, what will be the foundation of a good, solid, change of government."
Green Party leader James Shaw wasn't bothered by the timeline for getting a decision and reiterated a day "here or there" didn't matter too much.
He spoke with the party's delegates via teleconference on Thursday night just to update them on where things were at.
Asked if he was happy to sign a deal blind, Shaw said the "nature of the numbers meant there were safeguards built in".
"I'm pretty confident we're going to emerge with a change of government."
He wouldn't comment on Peters' delays in getting the party's board together.
The "shape of the arrangement" such as whether it's a support deal or how many seats they'd have at the table, would be part of the ratification decision put to the 150 Green Party delegates
BOARD MEETING DELAYS
Peters' explanation for why there is a delay in the NZ First board meeting to make a decision continues to change.
The NZ First leader had earlier on Thursday ruled out a decision being made until at least Saturday because travel arrangements and funerals had caused difficulty for some board members.
Asked again about those delays following a more than two-hour meeting with National, Peters said he'd never said anything of the sort.
When media cited his earlier comments Peters changed course and said it "may be a reason they couldn't come" but that he didn't know yet.
"I haven't had a chance to check with them all, now please don't extrapolate from that your own conclusion."
He said someone on the board had a funeral coming up but the organisation of the board's availability was happening behind the scenes and he couldn't "know everything all the time".
Fifteen minutes later Peters returned again to head to his last meeting of the day with Labour and clarified someone had said to him in passing there was a tangi to attend, which would "complicate one board member's travel".
"As a consequence that's why I said it but I didn't say who was going," he told media.
Peters has confirmed when the board does eventually meet they would likely do so in Wellington.
"This is where the caucus will be so the board will be here too."
Asked whether he had regrets about not making his self-imposed deadline of making a decision public by Thursday - writ day - Peters said he didn't.
"We couldn't make it - I've got no regrets about that at all."
"October 7 is when we knew what we were dealing with. Ten days, or nine days, or eight days, which might still be a prospect, is not too long to wait," he said.
PETERS NOT PICKING SIDES
Peters says he's not favouring either side when it comes to who will form the next government.
But whichever way it goes, the decision will not be made until at least Saturday.
Following a meeting with Labour on Thursday afternoon, the NZ First leader said he was not leaning towards National or Labour at this stage.
"I said I'd go into it with a total open mind, and I've asked my caucus and the board to have the same approach... I can honestly tell you I wouldn't take a guess of what anyone is currently thinking."
The comment comes on the fifth and final day of meetings. Two more meetings were scheduled for late on Thursday.
There would be no meeting between Labour and the Greens on Thursday - leader James Shaw said it was because Labour was "busy".
Peters said a decision wouldn't be finalised until at least Saturday, after he took all nine possible options for a government to his board and caucus.
The information presented to the NZ First board and caucus would be analysed, and agreed upon by both sides (NZ First and National, and NZ First and Labour).
On his way out of a two-and-a-half hour meeting with National earlier in the day, Peters said his 13-person board and parliamentary caucus would all need to meet in person to ratify the decision.
"It depends on the logistic availability of the board, which could be Saturday, Sunday, Monday," Peters said. "People do have to come from all over the country."
Peters said a teleconference wouldn't be satisfactory. "We thought of that, we thought we could circumvent all that by doing by Skype, but that would not be the kind of serious discussion needed."
Earlier, Peters said board members were ready to travel to Wellington at the drop of a hat, but travel arrangements and personal commitments, including funerals, had caused difficulty for some people.
In July Peters told Newsroom the public would know about NZ First's decision by "Writ Day".
"I make this guarantee that whatever decision New Zealand First arrives at post-election, it will be made public by the day the writs are returned, which is within three weeks from polling day," Peters said.
ARDERN DEFENDS PROCESS
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern on Thursday defended the process of the talks.
In a statement to waiting media, after a two and half hour session with NZ First, she said they had discussed important policy issues and had talked about "where the Labour Party and the New Zealand Party (sic) have both consensus and both feel we also may choose to disagree".
Ardern said it was reasonable to take this length of time.
"I have no criticism to make about the process we have undertaken. It's been a solid process, a good process. One that we've entered into in good faith and continue to participate in in good faith. I think it's been led well."
The Electoral Commission confirmed the return of the writ on Thursday afternoon, confirming the names of the successful electorate candidates.
The first meeting of the new Parliament must take place within six weeks of the return of the writ. That was November 23, and preparations were underway for the opening of the 52nd Parliament.
Asked about food prices on Thursday afternoon Peters confirmed that the high price of food was playing a part in the talks.