After months of delay, a breakthrough on abortion reforms will see Cabinet soon consider a possible new regime that is expected to allow women to seek abortions by choice up to about 20 weeks.
Justice Minister Andrew Little confirmed he expected to be able to make an announcement in the next few weeks, after reaching agreement with NZ First this week.
That would allow legislation to be drawn up for all MPs to vote on. It would take abortion out of the Crimes Act and remove the barriers women currently have to go through.
That will be a conscience vote for MPs, so there is no guarantee it will pass.
Little would not comment on the details of what was proposed.
However, it is understood the regime Cabinet will consider will be an amended version of the Law Commission's recommendation for abortions to be the decision of a woman alone up until a certain point of the pregnancy, after which there will be a requirement for a medical consultant to approve it.
The Law Commission had recommended that cut-off be 22 weeks, but it is understood NZ First has pushed for that to be changed to 19 or 20 weeks.
NZ First minister Tracey Martin confirmed that on Tuesday this week, the party's caucus had agreed to the reform going to Cabinet. "It's now finalised, and the Cabinet paper is on its way up to Cabinet."
The Government's response to a Law Commission paper on abortion reform is now almost six months overdue, partly because NZ First has baulked at treating it as a government measure, given it was a conscience vote.
Martin said she had taken the precaution of getting the NZ First caucus to agree to it to make sure it was not gazumped at the last moment, as had happened to Labour's plans to repeal the "three strikes" legislation.
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"I've done the same on other contentious issues, to avoid a repeat of that."
She said NZ First's view on abortion had always been that it be "safe, rare and legal".
"The legal part, that was the least difficult. The safe part, we've done well. The rare part is the hardest to get."
Abortion reform was one of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's campaign promises, and is one of several policies that has been delayed, scrapped, or watered down after going into government - many because of coalition partner NZ First.
The most high-profile recent stall was NZ First's effective veto of the capital gains tax Labour had hoped to implement - a decision that prompted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to rule out trying again with the tax.
That led to several of the government's own supporters questioning the slow pace of change and the influence NZ First had.
The Law Commission provided three options for reform, all of which removed the current statutory test for two certifying consultants to agree an abortion was warranted - something that required women to show it would seriously affect their mental or physical wellbeing.
The proposal included allowing women to make the decision themselves at any stage of pregnancy, requiring a different statutory test for a doctor to be satisfied the abortion was appropriate, to the "hybrid" option which allowed women to make their own decision up to about 22 weeks, but a medical sign-off after that point.
The Herald understands NZ First has also pulled the pin on a referendum on MMP, aimed at lowering the threshold for parties to get into Parliament to 4 per cent and abolishing the "coat-tailing" rule.
It is understood NZ First had been considering allowing the referendum on the issue as part of the Government's plan for wider electoral reforms, despite the party's strong opposition to lowering the threshold in the past. However, the NZ First caucus eventually ruled that out.
The Herald was told it was out of concern NZ First would be accused of acting out of self-interest and hypocrisy, given its prior position on the matter.
It was also concerned about the effect of further fragmentation of the political system, if the threshold dropped enough to allow more parties into Parliament.
That change was a Green Party wish, and the Electoral Commission has recommended lowering the threshold to 3 or 4 per cent, in return for getting rid of the so-called "coat-tailing" provision of MMP.
That allows an MP who wins an electorate to bring other MPs as the party vote allows for, even if that party gets less than 5 per cent in an election.
However, there is better news for another referendum due to be held with the 2020 election on the legalisation of the recreational use of cannabis.
Little expected the details of that referendum to be finalised within weeks. He said the debate was around issues such as whether to have a simple referendum question on legalising cannabis, or whether to enact legislation now but make it dependent on the results of the referendum.
On the abortion reforms, Little said NZ First had been constructive.
"I'm not going to get into any great depth on what the discussions have touched on, except that the issues NZ First have raised specifically have been practical, in my view very sensible issue to deal with, and are issues that are no great surprise coming from NZ First.
"Far from being obstructive, I think they've been very constructive."
He said electoral reforms would also be worked on, including to donations laws. That is expected to see a further clampdown on foreign donations.
"I expect we will have recommendations from the [select] committee about the political donations regime we've got. But the Government has committed to some changes. And they will be announced fairly soon, I expect."
Little said everything he wanted had been agreed to. He would not comment specifically on the issue of the party vote threshold and "coat-tailing" but said various things had been thrown into the mix.
"They have also been subject to decisions."
He would not confirm that NZ First had rejected the referendum on the party vote threshold.
A Justice and Electoral Select Committee inquiry into the 2017 election – a standard post-election inquiry – would also likely have some impact on those reforms once the committee reported back.
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has a members bill to implement MMP reforms, but did not want to comment until after a government announcement.