What Winston wants: Simple courtesy, past wrongs righted and a few legacy policies might do the trick
Winston Peters is unlikely to show his hand on coalition preferences till special votes are counted two weeks from now - and the outcome of that count could be crucial to which way he jumps.
That's according to an NZ First insider, who says special votes are one of several conditions that could be pivotal in making up Winston Peters' mind when negotiations to form the next Government begin.
Peters would balk at the potential instability of the current one seat buffer on the Labour-Greens side, but that could change once the special votes are in.
That's because it's expected - but not guaranteed - that Labour and the Greens will pick up another one or two seats. An extra one or two seats buffer would make a "huge" difference to how Peters' viewed that potential coalition, says the former MP.
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Agreement on Peters' "cast-iron" promise to relocate Auckland port operations to Northland would also be pivotal, he says.
Peters would see that as a legacy policy for himself, and NZ First.
But it is expected that National's pledge to raise the pension age would also have to be sacrificed - Peters has always opposed any tinkering with the retirement age or superannuation settings.
Curbing immigration and re-entering the Pike River mine would also be on the table - and those conditions would more easily be met by Labour, than National.
Expect Peters to give little away, however, say those insiders. He will play his cards very close to his chest.
While the caucus would get a say in any deal, Peters would not necessarily tell them about everything that was on the table.
In 2005 none of his caucus knew he had lined up a job as foreign minister in the Labour government till it was a done deal.
But people should not assume a deal with National just because it was the largest party on the night, says a former NZ First MP. There has been a lot of speculation about Peters ruling out any deal with the Greens, but people should not assume that either.
While Peters has always rejected any deal with the Greens, it may not be a deal breaker.
Peters would be weighing up the benefits of aligning himself with the mood for change and a younger, fresher Government and leader, Jacinda Ardern, as opposed to a fourth term Government.
The other factor counting against a deal with National was NZ First's experience first time round in coalition.
NZ First was nearly destroyed by its relationship with a third-term National government in the 1990s and that will weigh heavily with Peters, those same insiders say.
Peters would also be looking for utu from various slights by National. He will blame them for losing the Northland seat, and never got over John Key ruling him out of Government in 2008 - a move that contributed to Peters spending three years in the wilderness.
English had missed the opportunity to make a conciliatory gesture to Peters in his speech on Saturday night and that would have been noted, said the insider.
But Peters had scores to settle on both sides so personality issues likely gave neither side an advantage.
Peters pledged on the campaign trail to move container operations from Ports of Auckland to Whangarei by 2027 - he saw this as a win win for both cities, because it would open up 77ha of prime waterfront land for public use and the development of a new cruise ship terminal. He also campaigned on a rail line to the port.
Peters made a number of pledges on the campaign trail but that one seems to be the dearest to his heart.
Labour may be more amenable than National to the port plan, but Peters' position on abolishing the Maori seats would be an obstacle. Having just won back all seven Maori seats Labour would see that as a betrayal of its hard won support in Maoridom. Peters says that condition could be met with a referendum, but even that would be a step too far for Labour.
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