New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters says he is unfazed that National has ruled his party out of any post-election governing deals and has a warning for the party's leader, Simon Bridges.
"If Mr Bridges doesn't pick up the phone, someone else within his caucus will do it for him," Peters, also the Deputy Prime Minister, said in a statement.
"He's [Bridges] got a lot to learn about politics. Narrowing your options can be the worst strategic move you will ever make."
Earlier this afternoon, Bridges ruled out working with New Zealand First after the election.
"I don't believe we can work with NZ First and have a constructive, trusting relationship," he told reporters in Hawke's Bay.
He said he could not trust NZ First and would rather be in opposition for another three years than form a government with the party.
New Zealanders, he said, were sick of the "charade" with NZ First and wanted to give Kiwis a clear choice before the election.
Peters said that he had been in politics a long time and has been a member of both NZ First and National.
"The one thing New Zealand First is confident about is that if voters deliver that possibility [of forming a Government], and if Mr Bridges doesn't pick up the phone, someone else within his caucus will do it for him.
Peters said Bridges had also demonstrated he has no insight into what a unified caucus looks like.
"As Douglas McArthur said; 'there'll come a time soon when he'll when want to see me much more than I want to see him.'"
Bridges' move echoes former PM John Key's move in 2008 and 2011 to rule out NZ First - and in 2008 it was one of the factors that got NZ First booted out of Parliament.
If NZ First does not get above 5 per cent, and fails to win an electorate seat, the party will not get back into Parliament.
Bridges would not be drawn as to whether this was part of his thinking.
He did say National was open to working with the Act Party – an indication that the Epsom electorate deal would be back on.
Act Leader David Seymour welcomed Bridges' move this afternoon, and said while he appreciated National's encouragement, he had always believed Epsom belongs to the voters.
"Act and National worked together constructively in the last government and can do so again."