The first good news to leak out of the Budget Cone of Silence came in a tweet from Treasury reporting that the sausage rolls in the Budget lock-up would be free.

It was in response to news out of Australia that those in their Budget lockup would have to pay for their sausage rolls and coffees.

"Our Living Standards Framework analysis shows sausage rolls are integral to NZ's social capital, and coffee is a prerequisite for productive use of human capital," came the response from New Zealand's counterpart.

There was some reason to fear the days of free sausage rolls would indeed be gone in New Zealand as well.


Two weeks earlier, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson put on a convincing show of parents telling the children Santa could not find the chimney.

What money there was would be eked out over a period of years so the good people of New Zealand would just have to wait to get what Labour had promised.

This week it became clear that rationing did not apply to NZ First leader Winston Peters, who would feast and wassail aplenty.

Peters presented his Budget day feast early. It was almost $1 billion more for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including $715 million more for aid and funds to open an embassy in Sweden and employ more diplomats and trade officials.

He said it was indeed a large sum but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been starved under National and needed carbo-loading to help New Zealand keep its feet in an "increasingly turbulent global environment".

He didn't name China, Russia, or United States President Donald Trump but didn't need to. All have gone to some lengths to claim the title of best in show when comes to turbulence.

Obligingly, the very next morning Trump helped Peters prove his point by announcing the US was pulling out of the Iran deal and would instead reimpose sanctions.

So began the battle of claims about what "the majority of New Zealanders" would think about Peter's glut of riches.


Peters insisted New Zealanders were aware of the need for New Zealand to ensure its voice was heard on the international stage.

National Party leader Simon Bridges insisted the majority of New Zealanders would have heard Ardern and Robertson's comments about health and education and expect that $900 million to go to hospitals and schools rather than overseas missions if they really were in such dire straits.

Labour's policy for cheaper GP visits has become the poster child for the Opposition for this Budget.

That was costed at almost $260m a year, which is handily around the same as Peters' boost for Foreign Affairs.

It would make doctors' visits about $10 cheaper across the board and was to come into effect this July. The Government has instead said other priorities mean it will now be phased in over time.

Labour has argued it is not a "one or the other" scenario. That won't stop National, given Labour used its $26m flag referendum to run exactly the same argument of things that money would be better spent on.

However, it is probably safe to say that any major Budget wins in another of Peters' portfolio areas will be harder to justify – racing.

In the meantime Peters is in the final stretch before he takes over as Prime Minister for six weeks while Ardern goes off on maternity leave or rather her "working from home" period.

Like the little girl in the Longfellow poem, when Peters is good he is very, very good but when he is bad he is horrid.

New Zealand may well need one of those fire warning alert signs to help assess where he is on that scale on any given day.

Peters started warming up for that event by flexing his muscles against Labour ministers Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson, who had ventured te reo Māori would one day be compulsory at schools.

Peters was quick to shut them down, saying NZ First would stick to its side of the coalition agreement "and we expect the same of everybody else".

He then made reassuring noises on the AM Show, urging people not to worry about his time of unbridled power. "Don't worry, things will go smoothly. And things will be just humming along by the end of July."

He even insisted he was so little fussed about the elevation that he had not checked what his official title would be. It will be Acting Prime Minister, for the record.