National Party leader Todd Muller says the recent disagreements between the Coalition partners amount to an increasingly dysfunctional Government.

He was referring to the disagreement between Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over the speed at which New Zealand should come out of alert level 2, which limits the size of gatherings.

"The Deputy Prime Minister holds the view that we should have been there 10 days ago," he told reporters in Christchurch where he visited a hospitality business.

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"The Government is split on it and every day that we wait is a day that impacts the business of the community and the livelihoods of this community."

He said New Zealand should be in level 1 immediately – an advance on his position on Tuesday when he would not say when the move to level 1 should occur.

Asked how he would describe the relationship between the Labour and New Zealand First Coalition partners, he said "increasingly dysfunctional and it is impacting the Government and the country at a time of national crisis".

They had been at loggerheads for 10 days over the alert level and there had also been disagreement over support for Covid-19-related commercial rent disputes.

"They started talking about it in the first few days of level 4," Muller said. "And finally two months later they come up with a compromise position."

National Party leader Todd Mull. Photo / George Novak
National Party leader Todd Mull. Photo / George Novak

Justice Minister Andrew Little said he was disappointed it had taken five weeks and that New Zealand First knew why it had taken so long.

Peters told reporters at Parliament that people could see very clearly "the need for a party like New Zealand First with its common-sense principles and its experience which is resounding at this present time on so many critical decisions."

He said that Labour had wanted to alter contract law for all existing lease arrangements and that would have been a "poorly targeted policy" that would have affected many landlords who had sensibly adapted to the changed circumstances brought about by Covid-19.

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New Zealand First understood the sanctity of contract law.

Asked about Labour and New Zealand First scrapping around the Cabinet table, Peters told a reporter: "If you don't think contentious ideas and the passion of politics belongs at the Cabinet table, you are in the wrong business.

"Our job is to represent what we think is common sense, the constituency that we have campaigned for and the contribution we have made over a long time in this country's political system.

"Some might call it scrapping. Making sure that wise, sound practical experienced ideas prevail, that's what I'd call it."

Peters has been campaigning to get out of alert level 1 ahead of the timetable agreed to by Cabinet.

Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo / Mark Tantrum
Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo / Mark Tantrum

But he rejects suggestions he is breaching collective Cabinet responsibility, on the basis that Ardern agreed he could talk about it in public.

He said any suggestion he had breached the Cabinet Manual was "poppycock".

Peters reminded reporters that it was not a Labour Government and his party had held the balance of power after the last election.

"They are not running the country themselves. They are in a Coalition with New Zealand First.

"They are only in the Government because New Zealand First chose them to be there."

Earlier in the day New Zealand First Cabinet Minister Shane Jones said neither he nor Peters were going to "tolerate being absorbed or completely shaded by the Labour Party."

Ardern put the comments down to it being election year and parties wanting to state their positions.

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