Preliminary talks between National and NZ First will kick off this week after NZ First leader Winston Peters spoke to Bill English this morning.

The dialogue came after Peters was unable to answer English's call at the weekend.

"Preliminary talks will proceed this week when arrangements suitable to both parties are concluded," Peters said.

"New Zealand First expects the same will occur if and when other parties make contact."


NZ First staff had also been in contact with staff from other political parties.

Peters said was up north and out of cellphone range and did not get the message until it was too late to respond.

English revealed this morning that he had personally tried to call Peters yesterday but did not hear back.

Peters said reports he had refused to take English's call were wrong and he would call English back soon: "Wouldn't that be the courteous thing to do?"

Asked if he was up north in Whananaki without cellphone coverage he said yes. He had not got the message until late last night.

Earlier today, in his regular round of Monday morning interviews, English revealed he had tried to contact Peters and at several times stressed his view that Peters was leaving it late to begin talks.

"There wasn't a response but I think that just means Mr Peters is sticking to the timetable he outlined last week," English told Newstalk ZB.

"We would like to see some preliminary discussions take place this week but that looks unlikely."


Peters has said he will wait until the special votes are counted this Saturday before finalising any agreement, although he has indicated preliminary talks could start before then. He has said he wants to have a decision made by next Thursday.

This morning, English said that timeline "looks a bit of a stretch". National would this week continue preparations for what looks like it will now be a "pretty pressurised" process, including for New Zealand First.

"That looks to us to be quite a challenge."

National won 58 seats, Labour and the Greens won 52 combined, and New Zealand First won 9.

Peters said he expected some initial talks this week and would release a statement soon, although substantive talks would still not happen until after the special votes were released on Saturday.

Last week Peters said he would not have any serious talks towards government formation until all the special votes were counted but had not ruled out holding initial talks with English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern prior to that point.

Asked if he expected to talk to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern as well, Peters said he was not expecting anything.

"The reality is Mr English left me a message to call him because he wasn't able to talk to me at the time and I assume the same would be the case with the Labour Party. That's over to them. I'm not speaking for Jacinda, I'm not speaking for her political party, I'm not speaking for anyone but NZ First.

That's the difference and I wish I wasn't now going to be quoted saying I expect this, or I expect that. I don't expect anything at all and I'm not going to answer questions that involve other people's decisions because I have no right to speak for them."

Peters said he still expected to be able to complete all talks and reach a decision - including the details of a possible deal - in the five days until October 12, the deadline he had previously set himself. "Sunday is a working day in politics."

Asked what he thought about talk of the Greens and National working out a deal, he said "I don't."

"That's up for them to think about. We are a freedom party above all things. You're free to write what you think."

Asked if he believed such speculation was National trying to call his bluff, he said "what I think does not matter."