The New Zealand First caucus will be heading to the party's annual convention and AGM in Tauranga this weekend in a jubilant mood.

The party has a lot to celebrate – almost a year of being a partner of the (not Labour-led) coalition Government, its 25th anniversary, and a number of policy wins under its belt.

Leader Winston Peters will undoubtedly have a spring in his step as he gives his address on Sunday to party faithful, in a city where he was for a long time its local MP.

Speaking ahead of the two-day conference, Peters says the past year has been "enormously successful".

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"It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of, how shall I say it, consulting with other political parties. We have of course the clear agenda we agreed upon, and a number of issues that are a work in progress."

"Work in progress" is how Peters now refers to issues that are still being thrashed out between Labour, New Zealand First and support party the Greens.

"I don't know why they have been misconceived as being points of difference when in fact we are talking about points of co-operation," Peters says.

He points to 1072 decisions in 11 months as evidence of that. Asked what that vast number includes, Peters says it is every important decision made so far.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and his negotiating team returning from coalition talks with Labour on October 10, 2017. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and his negotiating team returning from coalition talks with Labour on October 10, 2017. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"It was compiled in the interests of knowing how our progress was going and in an endeavour to prove categorically to our friends in the media that this is the most co-operative Government that they've seen for a long, long, long time."

There have been sticking points between the parties that have been publicly embarrassing – not for New Zealand First though.

The Three Strikes law, refugee numbers and the Māori-Crown relations partnership cannot go unmentioned.

As the first anniversary of the formation of the coalition Government looms, Peters ticks off what he says are the big ticket items his party has got over the line so far.

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Winston Peters after leaving the National caucus in 1992. Photo / NZ Herald
Winston Peters after leaving the National caucus in 1992. Photo / NZ Herald

"The big items are an investment in the regions that have been seriously neglected, significant investment in those areas of the economy that need a lift, that's research and development. But I suppose the most critical thing has been a whole lot of areas of social investment."

He names investment in police, district health boards and schools, and says demands for much higher wage settlements from their workforces are evidence of that investment, and the fact workers believe the Government is listening to them.

Peters says the party's direction is backed by its supporters. This weekend's convention will serve two purposes, he says – to commit to the next 25 years through updated systems and initiatives, but also to mark the past 25.

New Zealand First MPs Tau Henare, Michael Laws and Winston Peters in 1996. Photo / NZ Herald
New Zealand First MPs Tau Henare, Michael Laws and Winston Peters in 1996. Photo / NZ Herald

"We are going to take time to reflect and celebrate the enormous commitment that thousands of people have made to make us the second longest-surviving political party that has not changed its name.

"As a party we're going to be celebrating how successful we've been. We've formed the government on three occasions and we've almost made it nearly every other time. It's not been an easy battle, it's been hard, it's been expensive and there's been a lot of effort and sacrifice. But the core of the party remains."

While Peters talks up the talent and strength of his caucus, he admits he would be "horrified" to contemplate the past year, and the two ahead, if the party didn't have ministers with previous experience – himself and Shane Jones.

"A lot of political event change is predictable, it's forecastable, and the knack of politics is to be able to see the unseeable. You're looking for two things, will it work and what's the political profit from it, to be blunt."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters with MPs Tracey Martin, Shane Jones and Ron Mark, returning from talks with the National Party after the election last year. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters with MPs Tracey Martin, Shane Jones and Ron Mark, returning from talks with the National Party after the election last year. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Then, the inevitable question on succession for the 73-year-old party leader.

"Here it comes, the got run over by a bus question. I was wondering how long it would take until you got to that. I have been avoiding buses for the last 25 years.

"The party has always had a succession plan, and it lies in the talent in my caucus."

Peters won't be drawn on who that might be. "One of the reasons why we have survived against all the media criticism about this is that we have been a seriously democratic party, and I don't make decisions without the full consultation of the party.

"I'm not going to presage what choice they might make, it would be wrong to do it, but I'm confident that there are other people to step up to do the job."

On that note, and an interesting use of the word presage, the interview was done.