Former Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has made his first public appearance since New Zealand First was ejected from Parliament in last year's election — but he wasn't giving away any clues about his future plans.
On Saturday Peters attended the dedication of a memorial to 499 Chinese gold miners whose remains were lost when the SS Ventnor sank off Hokianga Heads in 1902.
The monument, at Manea Footprints of Kupe Centre in Opononi, also remembers iwi who gathered the bones which washed ashore and buried them alongside their own dead.
Peters was accompanied by former NZ First MP Shane Jones who, as Regional Economic Development Minister, was responsible for the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund. PGF funding helped build both Manea and the Ventnor memorial.
In a speech during the dedication ceremony Peters said it was a poignant and hugely significant day.
''It's a long time since that boat went down but the chance to do the right thing was never lost because local people took steps to preserve those bones that they could, knowing full well they weren't theirs.''
Peters joined Jones in presenting a carved pouwhenua, which Jones described as a stake in the ground, to members of the New Zealand Chinese Association who had driven the memorial project.
Peters hadn't expected Jones to call on him to speak.
''This was meant to be a very enjoyable event where all I'd do was just sit over there,'' he quipped.
He also recalled how in the 1990s people had laughed when he said Māori had come from China.
The parallels between the two cultures, such as the reverence for ancestors and the desire to be buried in home soil, were ''incredible'', he said.
Asked about his political future Peters was, however, less forthcoming.
''About this event I'm happy to talk. I'm not doing other types of interviews,'' he said.
Peters also wouldn't say if he was disappointed the current Government was not continuing the PGF, given the fund's support for both the Manea centre and the memorial.
''You'd have to ask the people of New Zealand about that,'' he said, then strode off with a characteristic chuckle.