Winston Peters has had a big year. But he usually does. Claire Trevett spent time with the most battle-hardened politician in town.
Winston Peters starts the interview with an almighty yawn.
He puts it down to his travel schedule rather than a late night. He has recently been to Japan and then to the United Arab Emirates.
Peters was the Foreign Affairs Minister on those trips. But he is a man of many hats, all of which he likes to keep strictly compartmentalised, and all of which have had a busy year.
Those hats include NZ First Leader, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, State Owned Enterprises Minister, Racing Minister and List MP.
He is also, on occasion, just a plain old superannuitant and private citizen.
In 2019, all of his many hats got a wearing but some got more attention than others.
They were his Superannuitant and Private Citizen hat, which he donned to sue civil servant heads and former National Party ministers for an alleged breach of privacy over the leak of his superannuation overpayments.
The other was his NZ First leader hat after questions about donations to this party began to whirl.
The Herald spoke to Peters about his year. Peters, of course, gave it high marks, proclaiming it "an excellent year in terms of getting things done".
Private Citizen: Peters' court case.
The court's judgment on Peters' case for breach of privacy over his superannuation details was yet to be delivered at the time of writing.
But win or lose, perhaps the bigger question is whether Peters has lost even if he wins because of the political cost.
The political backlash to him could come from the cost to taxpayers, or details revealed in the trial such as the discovery that Peters, lawyer and champion of the elderly, could not fill his own superannuation form out properly.
Predictably, Peters blamed the form for its ambiguity.
It has so far cost the taxpayer $500,000 in legal costs, with the cost of the court case and any potential costs awards yet to be added. Where ministers (or ex-ministers) are sued for something in their capacity as ministers, there are provisions for their legal costs to be covered.
The taxpayer is covering the costs of those Peters is suing including MPs Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley, after Cabinet approval.
Peters says they should take the flak for that, not him.
"If they had any integrity they would stand by their words and pay for themselves. Here is this party of so-called responsible capitalists, the first thing they do is seek resource from the taxpayer.
"What did I do? I didn't ask for taxpayers' funding. I was putting up the money for my case."
Peters depicted the crusade as one of an ordinary man just wanting privacy and resisted any attempts to get him to drop the court action.
Does Peters regret it? If he does, he will never admit it.
"I've made it very clear. I stood up for this matter on a matter of principle. And I've got no regrets about doing that, no."
Did it have a toll on him, politically or personal?
"No, I am, seriously, without being immodest, battle hardened. Probably more than anybody in this institution."
Perhaps the biggest danger confronting NZ First's future prospects is Winston Peters and his response to two events of 2019 that could be influential in 2020.
In 2008, the media became the enemy as he was questioned about his party's funding and donors. It derailed the NZ First campaign and this took its toll at the ballot box.
This year there have been ominous signs of similar developments: his court case, the questions around NZ First Foundation and donations to the party, senior officials resigning, papers being leaked.
The Electoral Commission is now looking at the NZ First Foundation, and whether the party met its record-keeping and disclosure requirements.
While donations of less than $15,000 do not have to be publicly disclosed, parties are required to keep their own records of smaller donations (between $1500 and $15,000) and declare the total received in bands of donation sizes.
Peters responded by repeatedly refusing to answer questions about the Foundation.
When questioned about documents leaked to RNZ which showed Peters was listed as being at the meeting when the Foundation was first proposed, Peters hung up on RNZ's CheckPoint programme.
He now dismisses it to the Herald as "a mere bagatelle".
He says NZ First had provided the Electoral Commission with all the information it could possibly give. "We are not holding anything back."
As for his defensiveness about the topic, he says it is not a matter for trial by media. He says he is not worried the Electoral Commission will find something wrong.
"As for what is going on, I've got no concern about that now with the assurances I've got, but I did not know because I've got a 24/7 job."
When he is asked what event of the year he could have done without, he says you have to take the rough with the smooth.
What is the rough? "Not much, actually."
It is Peters' second stint as Foreign Affairs Minister and 2018 was marked with something of a rush of blood to the head.
There was the big talk about bringing peace to the Korean peninsula, and there was his apparent advocacy of a Russian trade deal at a time trade talks were suspended as part of sanctions over the annexation of Crimea, and the UK suspicion over the poisoning of former Russian spies, the Skripals.
But in year two, Peters settled into more realistic goals, for those who think a free trade agreement with the US is realistic.
He ends the year "optimistic" about progress towards US free trade talks, and having focused on building relations with countries such as Japan and Indonesia, especially as it related to working in the Pacific.
It is the relationships with Japan, Indonesia and the US that Peters raises when asked what his best bit of 2019 was.
Of late, trying to wrangle the start of free trade talks with the United States, something that has become a bit of a mission for Peters who clearly wants that particular feather in his hat.
"I see a glorious chance to give ourselves a greater spread and bigger basket of market, both with respect to Asia, the US and the UK and EU. So there's a lot to shoot for right now."
He has visited Washington twice this year, each time setting out his case that New Zealand meets the criteria for Trump's pledge to deal one-on-one with countries that are committed to free and fair trade.
Because the economic benefits to the US would be negligible, Peters has gone about it by trying to persuade the US that an agreement would send a strong symbolic message about the US strategic role in the Asia-Pacific (or Indo-Pacific, as the US prefers) and the strength of its relations with those countries.
He has also tried flattery, pointing out that of the 16 trade negotiations the US entered into after 1985, Republican presidents started 12 of them and signed all bar one "marking the GOP as the party most open to pursuing free and fair trade deals".
Peters was also dispatched to speak to the leaders of Muslim countries in Turkey after the mosque shootings. Beyond a few moments of "deep contemplation" (Peters' attempt to spin a nap) Peters has done little to embarrass.
Peters has been true to his word in making the most of New Zealand's experienced diplomats rather than giving out the glittering overseas postings to former politicians.
(An exception is former Labour MP and cabinet minister Annette King, who was appointed High Commissioner to Australia last year).
As racing minister, he has embarked upon a reform of the racing industry to try to ensure it is economically viable.
That includes making the TAB a separate commercial enterprise, and each racing code in charge of their own governance.
Coalition management: 'It's real hard work'
Peters' critics have predicted a looming implosion of the coalition as it enters its third year of existence, pointing to history which shows Peters has never quite made it to an election day with a coalition fully intact.
Following the collapse of the coalition with National after Jenny Shipley took over from Jim Bolger, NZ First did not make 5 per cent in the 1999 election, but Peters narrowly held his electorate.
In 2008, NZ First was booted out of Parliament after a campaign in which Peters was on the defensive over donations to the party.
Will he be third time lucky?
Despite his court case, questions around NZ First's internal machinations with donations and the NZ First Foundation, and a few conflicting views with other Government parties, nothing has yet seriously endangered the stability of the coalition.
And Peters says it will stay that way.
Peters manages the coalition according to its Bible: the coalition agreement signed with Labour.
There have been occasional contretemps but the coalition has kept its Warrant of Fitness, with just an few backfires. That is partly because Ardern keeps as much distance as possible from Peters' and NZ First's internal issues.
Peters said those who play up the differences in opinion between the three parties are missing the point.
"The truth is that there is a perception that parties are at each other's throats. That is a misunderstanding of the fact that we are all different parties with different policies.
"Otherwise we wouldn't need to be different.
"Our job is to make the thing work as a cohesive unit, and to the surprise – and dare I say it – to the chagrin of some, it has been a cohesive unit.
"But if anybody thinks it's easy, they couldn't be more wrong. It's real hard work."
His examples of the "hard work" bits include the decision they could not support a capital gains tax, and in the negotiations over the Zero Carbon Bill, ensuring rural New Zealand would not be hit too hard.
Despite predictions, he says he has absolutely no intention of forcing an issue to implode that coalition, and a repeat of history.
"I shook hands with someone in circumstances where the country needed a stable Government and I did so with my colleagues' full intention of keeping our word. And we have."
He will soon confront the predicament of trying to repeat the feat.
NZ First has struggled in the polls throughout the year, staying at just under 5 per cent in most of them. After the latest 1 News Colmar Brunton poll (NZ First was on 4 per cent), Ardern said NZ First should not be underestimated.
Peters agrees with this, at least. "The reality is it seems I am condemned to spend my whole life politically proving my friends in the media wrong."
Come the 2020 election, Peters' core supporters will be asking if he has indeed delivered on his campaign promises. Peters says he has a "young, dynamic" team. "We are ready. We will hit the ground running in the New Year."
As always, he refuses to set out a preferred governing arrangement despite the clear antipathy to National. He is also sticking by his forecast that National leader Simon Bridges will not be leader come the election.
"When one in four of your own party doesn't want you, you've got a problem."
He is not brave enough to pick a successor, however.
He has his own party's survival to tend to.
He points out that before Ardern became Labour leader NZ First was well above 10 per cent in the polls. "It proves we know how to campaign, and we know how to strategise.
"So here we come again, in 2020."
As for what NZ First has achieved, as the NZ Herald leaves Peters hands over a glossy brochure. It is a list of progress of the achievements of NZ First. "I want them spread wide and far."
Since the party has produced such shiny booklets to boast of them, we will not bother here.