NZ First leader Winston Peters says he had no regrets about going into coalition with Labour and that it has not damaged his chances of getting back into power.
Peters answered questions from the public in a virtual Town Hall meeting hosted by the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday night.
The most common question from viewers was whether he regretted going into coalition with Labour - in particular because of its apparent damage to his party in the polls.
"We made up our mind that we had to make a change," Peters said. "And we negotiated really hard for the changes we wanted."
He rejected the suggestion from a viewer that he had "shot himself in the foot" by choosing Labour.
"I haven't lost my place. That's why I'm sitting here, and that's why on election night you're going to be surprised.
"It's always difficult when you're in the middle like we were. But I set out to try and get a stable government in difficult times for the last three years and I've got to say to you that's what we've done."
He noted Herald analysis which showed that 80 per cent of NZ First's coalition agreement had been achieved or partially achieved.
On Covid-19, Peters said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had done a "superb job" of communicating during the pandemic, but the Government had not done "a perfect job". He noted that Australia and Taiwan's economies had not taken as big a hit as New Zealand.
The NZ First leader and Deputy Prime Minister distanced himself from some of the Government's most significant failures, in particular Kiwibuild, saying he warned the Government that it needed to have consulted more with builders on the policy.
He defended NZ First policies like the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, where job creation of between 560 and 2000 jobs was below an initial target of 10,000.
"We're building the biggest mussel farm in the world. We are going to have massive job creation in Opotiki and other parts of the country.
"The jobs are coming. You have to start somewhere, and then you get the generation of confidence, and that starts to build other industries around them."
He would not say which major parties policies he preferred, nor what policies could be a deal-breaker in any coalition talks.
He took his traditional position urging voters to choose NZ First for "insurance". A Labour-Green government would be a "lurch to the left and socialism" while a National-Act would be an austerity government, he said.
Both main parties had economic plans that would place generations of New Zealanders in debt: "Debt will be like ashes in their mouths."
Peters made his strongest comments on the Pike River mine recovery, saying he would continue to support re-entry. The tunnel re-entry costs have doubled from an original estimate of $23 million to $47 million.
"Since 1882, we have had hundreds of miners lose their lives, apart from one case where two weren't recovered.
"Every other case was a case of going and finding the bodies.
"At Pike River, 29 people lost their lives in what I believed was a murder scene in terms of neglect, and no one is interested.
"I would be interested in pursuing that because I think that's justice and justice sometimes comes at a price."
Virtual town hall
Last night's virtual town hall with Winston Peters is the first in a series.
Streaming live on nzherald.co.nz and our social platforms, it features video submissions from everyday New Zealanders and leaders within their fields from economics to business, health to social justice.
With the general election just weeks away, who has the leadership, vision, and passion to lead us through one of the most testing times in our nation's history?
From the Covid-19 health response to tackling the economic fallout, we'll look for answers. How will each party manage the border? Who will offer the best support for struggling businesses and the unemployed? What are their solutions to the housing crisis? Plans to tackle climate change, healthcare debt and child poverty? Education policies?
With nothing off the table, this is your chance to raise issues and have your questions answered directly.
Hosted by Focus Live's Will Trafford, this series aims to answer your most pressing questions in the lead-up to this historic election.
You can submit your questions live during the programme on NZ Herald's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, or, if you have a specific question for any of the other party leaders send us a video via Facebook Messenger of yourself asking it. We'll put as many questions as we can to the leaders live on air.
Tomorrow night Act's David Seymour will be here to answer your questions from 8pm.