Labour leader Jacinda Ardern speaks at Parliament about her planned negotiations with Winston Peters.

Posted by on Sunday, 24 September 2017

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says she will start making calls to potential support partner NZ First leader Winston Peters later this week but it was clear he wanted time to reflect and talk to colleagues first.

"My expectation is over the next couple of days to reach out. But I haven't done so yet."

Ardern refused to answer questions on individual items that might be up for negotiations.

"We certainly have common ground and areas there would be useful discussions."


Currently it's clear the leaders of the different parties want to take a bit of time."

She is assembling a negotiating team and a wider "reference group" to work on negotiations.

"I'd like to keep it relatively tight."

She would also meet her front bench tomorrow.

Ardern had a photo opportunity with Labour's new MPs this afternoon in Parliament.

She said Labour had 13 more MPs than the last term and 17 MPs who were first-timers.

Ardern said a referendum on the Maori seats that NZ First wanted was a "non-negotiable."

"We have just taken all the Maori seats - our policy has not changed and will not change."


Ardern also confirmed she did not believe an expansion of Auckland Port was sustainable and it was committed to moving the Port - although she did not say whether she would commit to moving that to Northland as Peters wanted.

She would not discuss most other individual policy items.

"Our job is to work with what voters delivered us."

She said that meant trying to see if the parties she considered a "bloc for change" - NZ First, the Greens and Labour - could form a stable government.

She said NZ First was included in that because it too had campaigned for change.

She expected negotiations to be "respectful" and Labour would emphasise her view that between Labour, the Greens and NZ First the voters had indicated they wanted a change.

Labour had some policies in common with NZ First - including a pledge for a manned re-entry of Pike River mine - but others were not.

Ardern said Labour had fallen slightly short of its target of a 50-50 male and female split in caucus, but that could change if Labour picked up more seats on special votes.

She would not adjust her own front bench until after a new government was agreed on to ensure stability during negotiations.

Asked about Green Party co-leader James Shaw's suggestion for all three parties to have some discussions together, Ardern said she expected "one-on-one" talks at least in the early stage.

Ardern would also not say not how much money Labour had set aside in its budget to cater for support parties' demands - or whether Labour would have to cut some of its own plans to afford them.

"Whatever we do, we will stick to our Budget responsibility rules."

Those rules commit both Labour and the Greens to return a surplus and reduce debt over time.

She said she was aware of the need for relatively fast settlement of the issue so voters did not get disgruntled about MMP.

"All of us want to keep faith in MMP and that means we move as quickly and as fast as we can, but we do have to wait for all the votes to come in."

Ardern also said she had been called by Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten - but had not heard from any others, including British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who had wished her well in the lead-up to the election.

Ardern said Labour would eventually take stock of its result and where it had and had not done as well as it had hoped - that would include Auckland.

Ardern said she was not worried the Greens' James Shaw would abandon Labour for National, saying while it was the Greens' prerogative, nothing she had heard indicated that.