For political junkies and journalists, the arrival of the first bottom lines ahead of the 2023 election was as thrilling as the arrival of the first godwits for ornithologists.
It was the harbinger of the spring of the political calendar – the start of the complicated game of Twister that kicks in ahead of election years as politicians go into contortions over possible governing arrangements.
This time around it was a doubly welcome sight. There had been a long drought in close polls since 2017 and the red wash of the 2020 election in which the main intrigue was how far National would fall.
This week the harbinger arrived in the form of Act leader David Seymour putting his right hand on to the blue circle. He announced he wanted a referendum on the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi, and reportedly said it was a bottom line.
Bottom lines are supposed to be the issues on which a smaller party claims it will refuse to budge in return for supporting a larger party into government. As such, they only tend to make an appearance when the race for the government benches is shaping up to be tight.
His proposal was for legislation to be passed that set out what the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi were, followed by a referendum on whether to adopt them. That, he said, would be the final determinant on whether any co-governance between Māori and the Crown was allowed in New Zealand.
It would rip up decades of careful legal interpretation by the courts, based on international law and the domestic application of it, and replace it with politicians' versions.
Seymour presented a set he had already prepared: it read like a political party's guiding principles and it turned out it was - they were taken directly from Labour's constitution.
Seymour may well be on solid ground to say a wider debate is needed around co-governance.
It has long been used in Treaty settlements including over specific areas of land or natural resources – and most of those were negotiated under National Governments.
However, the level of confusion and suspicion in the public about what it means in the health and Three Waters reforms should make the Government wary. It has not yet made the case for it convincingly or clearly enough.
But Seymour knows full well that his is a ridiculous bottom line and the referendum idea is stunt.
It was quickly countered by Te Pāti Māori's bottom line – that no such referendum take place and perhaps a referendum on whether Seymour was an idiot should be held instead.
It is also a phony bottom line – although most bottom lines are. It is inconceivable Seymour would side with Labour rather than National if he had the balance of power simply because National said no to his idea of a referendum.
Seymour's goal is largely to try to keep Act's own vote up under the onslaught of a resurgent National Party.
That requires trying to outflank NZ First leader Winston Peters, who hunts in the same territory, by tapping into the suspicion and concern of those voters who might be swayed by this issue.
Some evidence was in one statement in Seymour's press release: "By ending the obsession with constitutional reform, we could get stuck into the real problems in education, housing, welfare and crime that Māori get the worst end of."
It was perhaps unintended irony, given the one who seems most obsessed with constitutional reform is himself.
National's leader Christopher Luxon certainly won't be obsessing about it.
He is sceptical about plans for co-governance in the health reforms and the Three Waters reforms, but it is not something he will spend too much time talking about – he will be more than happy for Act to take the lead on that.
The advantage Act has for him is that Seymour can go a lot further on controversial areas than he can - anything from race relations to the Covid-19 response. Luxon can't take the risk of a backlash of dabbling in the politics of division.
Having said he wanted to be Prime Minister to get things done – and focused unrelentingly on the cost of living - nor would he want a first term as Prime Minister to be bogged down in debate about the place of the Treaty in New Zealand.
We may not get a clear answer for a while, because the start of the Season of Bottom Lines is also the start of refusing to rule anything out.
If things are ruled out in or out ahead of time, they have nothing left to negotiate over at the table: they've shown their cards.
So far Luxon has refused to rule out accepting Act's policy to remove all mention of the Treaty of Waitangi from the statute books.
Despite their yawning differences, neither Te Pāti Māori nor Act have refused to rule out working with each other in government. Then again, so far no party has ruled out working with any other party – no matter how ridiculous the pairing.
When push comes to shove, this jostling by the minor parties about their wish lists will amount to nothing but white noise as the election nears.
The real drag race will be between Labour and National. Labour will almost certainly be relying on the Greens or Te Pāti Māori or both.
National will almost certainly need Act.
So they, too, will have to start turning a mind to where the give-and-take might lie in future arrangements., whether to have a coalition or a minority Government and which ministerial positions might go to their partners.
In the meantime, the goal of both will be to claim the government benches in large numbers so they do not have to give much away at all.