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18 Mar 2018 18:50
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    Talks end, Winston Peters has `open mind'

    Negotiations between NZ First and the main parties to form the next government have ended with Winston Peters saying he has "an open mind".

    Negotiations that will decide which of the main parties leads the next government have ended, with NZ First leader Winston Peters saying he isn't leaning one way or the other.

    The decision whether to back National or Labour will be taken by his party's caucus and board at a meeting to be held in Wellington on Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

    Mr Peters says the decision depends entirely on that meeting.

    "I said I would go into it with a totally open mind and I've asked my caucus and board to have the same approach," he said.

    "That's where things are at the moment. I wouldn't take a guess at what anyone is thinking."

    Mr Peters said there were nine government formation options open to NZ First when the talks began on Sunday, and all those options were still on the table.

    They range from forming a full coalition government with National or Labour to support agreements or even staying on the cross benches and abstaining on confidence votes.

    Mr Peters said ministerial positions for his MPs hadn't been discussed and could be dealt with at a later stage.

    The negotiations had been entirely about policy.

    "I'm very, very pleased we've actually got it finished," he told reporters after the final meeting on Thursday night.

    "We've got a seriously comprehensive dossier from both sides."

    The Greens, who must be part of a Labour-led government to make up the numbers, took no part in the negotiations with NZ First.

    Labour kept them in the loop through a separate series of bilateral talks.

    After the negotiation meetings ended, the NZ First caucus went into a late-night meeting to draw up documents detailing the deals offered by National and Labour.

    That meeting will continue on Friday.

    The documents will set out the responses to the concessions NZ First sought so its policies can be implemented, wholly or partly, by the next government.

    They will be presented to the decision-making meeting.

    Mr Peters said the documents would have to be cross-checked with the other parties "so we all know exactly what we said and what we committed ourselves to".

    Despite saying earlier this week that the 14-member board was on stand-by to fly to Wellington at a moment's notice, Mr Peters said on Thursday that depended on logistics.

    "It could be Saturday, Sunday or Monday. I'll know that before too long," he said, ruling out any decision by the board on Friday.

    "It is a priority. It depends on their availability. They have to come from all over the country."

    Mr Peters said one issue was that a high-ranking member had a funeral coming up.

    "We have to find out who can and can't go. That's the reason why perhaps we don't have confirmation right now."

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