UPDATE: The wait to find out who will be New Zealand’s next government appears to nearly be over as Winston Peters begins wrapping up talks with National and Labour.
Last night, Mr Peters was spotted conducting separate one-on-one meetings with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and Prime Minister Bill English.
Mr English confirmed he had met with Mr Peters, but refused to comment on the contents of that meeting.
The meetings came just an hour after Mr Peters addressed media after a second full day of meeting with the NZ First board and caucus.
He says there is still a few more things to do, but would not say what they were but further discussions with both National and Labour will be needed.
EARLIER: New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says his board is “98% of the way there” when it comes to agreeing on policy but there is still work to be done before a final agreement is announced.
Speaking to media following the second day of discussions with the board and his caucus, Mr Peters says he’s “almost ready” to take a finalised proposal back to National and Labour.
“The board has come to an almost total consensus on the issue of policy – and that’s what really matters to us.”
Although he says there has been “serious consensus” on the policies NZ First negotiated with both sides, a consensus on which side the party will back to form a government has not yet been reached.
He says there is still a few more things to do but would not say what they were, adding that further discussions with both National and Labour will be needed.
“We have things to finish off as urgently as we can, sorting out differences of calculations and opinions and trying to make sure we have, with both sides, a clear understanding so that, if we do finalise it, we will know we really have the agreement rather than going away and having to write it again.”
Once firmer agreements have been hammered out, the NZ First negotiating team could go back to the board for a sign-off.
But he says that will not require another meeting and can be done through correspondence.
“The board is starting to wind its way home and we're going to go away and try and bring the matter to a finality as fast as we possibly can.”
He says NZ First will “press on” but there will be no more discussions tonight.
Mr Peters says once things have been “wrapped up,” he will be talking to both National and Labour about what they want and that will then again be taken back to the NZ First board.
He says other issues, such as if NZ First’s support will come in the form of a coalition agreement or another form, are “still in the mix.”
Mr Peters says the party is still on track for an announcement to be made before the end of the week.
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