Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says she does not plan to hold three-way talks with NZ First and the Greens as she embarks on trying to persuade NZ First leader Winston Peters to support a Labour-led government.

Ardern said she was yet to make contact with Peters but expected to do that within the next few days.

Asked if she was planning "blind" negotiations so the third party did not know what the other was asking for and getting, she said she expected one-on-one talks with each party.

"But my expectation is we'll have a team that will speak one-on-one as a team to team, and that's how things have been conducted in the past."


Green leader James Shaw had said he would expect some three-way talks after the initial stages of the negotiations, but Ardern was lukewarm.

She would spend the next few days putting together a small senior negotiating team for Labour's side as well as a wider "reference" group.

"My intention is to try and make sure we are absolutely prepared so we will be using the next two days in particular to set the groundwork for our negotiating teams, set the groundwork around policy, and from there be ready for talks to take place."

Ardern planned to meet with her front bench on Tuesday as well as wider caucus to finalise those groups, but will also draw on experience from outside caucus.

She is likely to call on counsel from older hands involved in the coalition with NZ First from 2005 to 2008 such as Sir Michael Cullen - although an overseas holiday might preclude him from intensive involvement - and Annette King.

Ardern herself has has little to do with Peters so will be relying on others who know him better to advise her.

She does however know Shaw - the pair got to know each other when they were based in London in the late 2000s.

Jacinda Ardern was lukewarm about Green leader James Shaw's suggestion of some three-way talks after the initial stages, saying she expected one-on-one talks with each party. Photo / Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern was lukewarm about Green leader James Shaw's suggestion of some three-way talks after the initial stages, saying she expected one-on-one talks with each party. Photo / Getty Images

The Green Party has called in veteran Jeanette Fitzsimons, a former co-leader, to help work on negotiations from its side.


Fitzsimons, Shaw, party "musterer" Eugenie Sage and senior staff and party representatives met in Parliament on Monday afternoon. A spokeswoman said they were not yet in negotiations, but would name their negotiating team when that happened.

Fitzsimons was co-leader in 2005 when the Greens were on the verge of becoming part of a Labour governing arrangement - only to have it pulled out from under them by Peters who told Helen Clark he did not want them in the formal Government.

Labour's team is likely to include party officials Nigel Haworth and Andrew Kirton.

Kirton said yesterday he did not expect to be part of negotiations, but the leadership would present Labour's Council with its proposals to sign off on.

One of the tricky jobs will be working out trade-offs between NZ First and the Greens.

The Greens are in the weaker position of the two if Peters starts a bidding war between Labour and National.

Ardern has already ruled out one of Peters' wishlist - a referendum on the Maori seats.

Ardern also refused to discuss how much Labour was prepared to pay for support partners' promises or which of its own policies it might need to jettison or scale back, such as NZ First's call for it to scrap water taxes on the rural sector.

Asked the possibility of a bidding war between Labour and National, Ardern said she could only dictate the way her own negotiations were run: "respectful, making sure we put our case forward for change."

Ardern said she considered those who voted for NZ First as part of a bloc which voted against the status quo, so believed Peters should side with Labour.

She was not prepared to given at any cost, if it meant it could not deliver on its own priorities.

"There's no point governing if you can't deliver for the people you're there to represent."

Labour and the Greens are relying on the special votes to deliver them more seats so a Labour-Green-NZ First coalition would have more than a slim one-majority of 61 - a paper-thin margin that might be off-putting to Peters.

The results of those special votes will not be known until October 7.

The Greens usually benefit in the special votes - but one of the rare exceptions was in 2005, another election in which the smaller parties were squeezed by the head-to-head battle between National and Labour.