There has been much speculation around the solidity, and therefore sustainability of the present coalition government.
Regardless of what Winston Peters wants to call this government, it is Labour-led because they have 46 seats compared with New Zealand First's nine.
New Zealand First, because it was the Kingmaker, was able to secure not just a great election victory, but one of the most outstanding political victories that has then transcended into one of the most major fiscal victories of any party in the history of New Zealand politics — Mixed-member Proportional (MMP) representation.
Winston was able to secure close to $3 billion for New Zealand First pet policies out of the first budget. That means by election year 2020, New Zealand First MPs across the board will be worth $9 billion.
This gives New Zealand First a significant head start on Labour and the Greens, without whom he would never have been Deputy Prime Minister or acting Prime Minister.
Equally it can be said Labour and the Greens would not be in government but for Winston being the Kingmaker.
What did Winston actually win out of the first budget? In crude number terms, it makes each one of Winston's MPs, coming into election 2020, a $1b man or woman each. That's right, New Zealand First MPs have an average win of $900 million each per year for the full three-year period.
New Zealand First has been able to get out of the gate quickly because it got its fingers in the till first. Nine billion is a lot of money to expend into a community the size of New Zealand. It requires a long lead-in time because you cannot, as Shane Jones has learned, dump a billion dollars into the regions without well thought out and worked business cases to sustain the delivery of those dollars.
No one batted an eyelid with the Pacific Island reset at $714 million, when a very good and cogent argument could be made that that money should have been funded into New Zealand First — not the Pacific First. But Shane Jones and Winston Peters have a deep and abiding interest in the Pacific.
Put that together with Minister for Children Tracey Martin, who is in control of a ministry that has failed 14 reviews in its short history and continues to be rewarded with more money — nearly $270m over four years to expand its services.
It is the largest agency that traffics Māori failure, and is rewarded for it, in the country. The second agency that does extraordinarily well out of Māori failure is of course the Criminal Justice system at $2.8 billion per year.
The intent of this opinion piece is to merely say there comes a time when the leverage New Zealand First has, hit its full and just desserts. You have to ask the question, when is enough enough?
Rightly so, all constituents up and down the country are becoming attuned to a party with 7 per cent of the vote, endeavouring to assert itself above and beyond its democratically won entitlements.
That is the problem New Zealand First has in pushing the line too much. And it's not a good look, but political grandstanding when Shane Jones goes for the one-liners rather than holding his own counsel because his team have won.
What prudent politicians do, once they have won, is roll out the benefit of the policy programme, rather than determine overtly who runs the show, overstepping and vetoing others in a coalition.
That conduct is not a coalition. It is a dictatorship. This is the politics of a Godfather in operation.
There are 13 Māori MPs in the Labour Party and Winston Peters and Shane Jones in this government pretend for whatever reason, to want to consistently run over the top of their rightful advocacy of their communities. Remember they returned all seven Māori seats to the Labour Party and 60 per cent of the party vote as well. Without those votes, Labour would not be in government.
The real problem for the Labour Party in its relationship with New Zealand First will be its Māori caucus. Winston cannot help himself but play to a very small number of Kiwis who love him beating up other Māori. It's called identity politics, and the frustration within the Labour Party Māori caucus will start to show itself.
I previously wrote a column about Winston, and there is no doubt that Winston coming into 2020 will play the Māori card. You can put your money on it. The question is what will the Māori members of the Labour Party do?
The government's reset last Sunday, means that Jacinda Ardern has been placed in a difficult position. If Winston and Shane do not pull their heads in, there has to be a confrontation and Prime Minister Ardern will have to say enough is enough.
This Prime Minister put her hand up to have a go at poverty and inequality — New Zealand First did not. She wants to be measured against that as a defining legacy. No other Prime Minister in recent history would venture into such difficult terrain. Prime Minister Ardern represents not just a generational change, but a change long overdue.
The reset will work because Jacinda has a clean refreshing brand. No one doubts her commitment to fairness.
Wiser heads may prevail, but on anyone's measures New Zealand First was first to the well, drank very deeply from it and cannot now stand over it and own the whole well all the time.
NZ First won $2.8b from first coalition budget:
• Provincial Growth Fund — $1b — Shane Jones
• Pacific Aid — $714m — Winston Peters
• Ministry Foreign Affairs & Trade — $190m — Winston Peters
• Learning support — $272.8m — Tracey Martin
• Oranga Tamariki boost — $270m — Tracey Martin
• Defence and veterans funding — $367.7m — Ron Mark
• Youth training — $26.8m — Tracey Martin
• Bloodstock tax deductions — $4.8m — Winston Peters