Labour leader Ardern opens up on common ground with NZ First; Cites shifting Ports of Auckland alongside tertiary education & forestry; Says Labour would stick to govt spending and debt track rules; Might shift on water tax

Labour leader Ardern opens up on common ground with NZ First; Cites shifting Ports of Auckland alongside tertiary education & forestry; Says Labour would stick to govt spending and debt track rules; Might shift on water tax
Jacinda Ardern with Labour's new MPs.

By Alex Tarrant

Jacinda Ardern has opened up further on what she views as common ground between Labour and New Zealand First, with relocating the Ports of Auckland joining earlier remarks on education and forestry, and Phil Twyford’s comment that the two parties were fans of using “the levers of the State” in terms of more hands-on economic management.

Ardern also implied there is potential for Labour to shift from its controversial water tax policy – something Peters has vowed to not let Labour impose. Ardern indicated this would be considered if other options for improving water quality were put forward.

Speaking to media in Parliament Buildings in Wellington, Ardern said she believed Labour had more common policy ground with New Zealand First than National did. But she cautioned a lot was yet to go under the bridge in terms of policy negotiations.

Ardern said it appeared clear that party leaders were keen to take a little bit of time before negotiations hit full steam. The lay of land would need to be seen regarding the 15% of special votes due 7 October. Labour (45), New Zealand First (9) and the Greens (7) returned 61 seats together on election night – the exact number required for a majority, compared to National’s 58 seats. The Greens’ refusal to consider coalition with National puts NZ First in the ‘Kingmaker’ position.

The next two days will be used to set the ground-work for Labour’s negotiating teams and for going over policies, to be ready for talks to take place. Ardern said Labour would look at how coalition negotiations had been conducted successfully in the past. Her expectation was that Labour’s team would engage directly one on one with New Zealand First and the Greens, rather than the three parties initially being around the same table.

Those talks are still going to be set against the backdrop of relative fiscal constraint. Ardern said Labour would stick to its Budget Responsibility Rules, which stipulate government spending must not go above 30% of GDP, and that government debt must hit 20% of GDP within five years’ time.

This leaves little room for additional costly policies, and indicates tough negotiations might need to take place, perhaps swapping existing Labour policies on big spending areas like education to accommodate the demands of New Zealand First and the Greens.

Labour’s fiscal policy document, which includes costings for its entire manifesto, leaves less than $1 billion of ‘spare cash’ in each of 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20, which rises to $1.5 billion in 2020/21 and $3.4 billion in 2021/22.

A back-of-the-envelope look indicates there is room for about $2.5-$3 billion extra a year on the government spending side, although this on its own would push out the debt track promise. This indicates Labour’s fiscal team might have to consider policies that could be argued to either give GDP a near-term shot in the arm or increase the near-term tax take.

“We will stick to our Budget Responsibility Rules, which means that we will put constraints around ourselves to make sure that whatever happens in those negotiations to form stable government, we will have a stable economic basis for them as well,” Ardern said.


Ardern was speaking after presenting 13 new Labour MPs. “No one has expanded quite like Labour has,” she said of the election result.

I asked Ardern whether the fact Labour had returned more MPs, while National has fewer than the previous Parliament, gives her confidence that Peters might choose to go with the major party with the momentum, rather the previous position of engaging initially with the party with the largest vote.

“It definitely demonstrates where the mood fell on election night. And that was to vote against the status quo,” she said. “Only time will tell” on whether the momentum argument might trump ‘biggest party’.

Common ground

Ardern began the press conference by saying she was “not answering any specific questions around individual items that may be part of negotiations between the parties that are potentially in a position to form a government.”

That quickly changed, however.

Put to her that Labour and New Zealand First had common ground (“we do”) including Pike River re-entry, she said: “We certainly have areas where there would be useful discussions”.

“I certainly see shared values there, and certainly I saw New Zealand First campaigning hard for change. Now it’s up to us to see if we’re able to form a stable coalition government,” Ardern said. “There is a lot of alignment between New Zealand First and Labour.”

Water tax could be gone

Ardern was asked how key the water tax policy was to Labour. “I know that both parties share a desire to see our waterways cleaned up,” was the response. While she wasn’t going to carry negotiations out through the media, “there is a shared ambition and goal,” in the area.

“But it’s up to now, individual parties to see if we can make that work and form a stable government,” she said. “When voters deliver us an outcome, it’s up to us to see if we can then turn that around into a stable government, keeping in mind the things that we campaigned hard on.”

Maori seats

On the Maori seats, there were questions left open on whether a referendum of Maori electorate roll voters could be allowed by Labour. Ardern said the party had very early on indicated a full, binding referendum on the Maori seats would not be entertained by Labour.

“Our strong view was, that it was always going to be up to Maori to decide what happened to the future of the Maori seats, rather than a binding referendum,” she said. “Look, of course, we have just taken all of the Maori seats through hard working campaigning, and our policy on that has not changed and will not change.

“We, right from the beginning, took a very firm view on that. And it would be completely contradictory for us to work so hard in those Maori seats to earn the respect of those voters, to then work across them, to then undermine that.”

Asked then whether there could be a Maori-only referendum, she said her position was to ensure that “people are very, very clear that it was Maori-only for the future of those seats.” However, a Maori-only referendum was “not something I expect to be high on our agenda. Certainly, we’ve ruled it out,” she said. Labour had a responsibility to Maori, she later said.

Health, housing, environment

Ardern was asked whether everything was on the table, or whether there were some untouchable policies. She replied that her speech on election night highlighted that “there are certain things that we’re in politics to try and achieve".

"...Unless you’re in a position to achieve them, then there’s no point governing if you can’t deliver for the people that you’re here to represent.

“So, certainly, there are some real priorities for us, particularly across housing, across health, and across repairing our environment – we’ll be sticking to those,” she said.


Ardern was asked about Labour’s and New Zealand First’s tertiary education policies. It was put to her that the ends were similar in terms of free education and tackling student debt, but that the means were different for reaching the end-goal.

“That does speak to the fact that we do have some shared values around making tertiary education more accessible,” she said. Tertiary education could be a key tool to woo New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin, who is number three on the party list and  whose mother was a previous party President who’s still involved.

Auckland Port

Then to the Auckland port. Ardern said she was already on the record in terms of her views. And they’re likely to resonate with Winston Peters.

“We take a view that we do have to make sure the future of the port for Auckland is sustainable,” she said. “We don’t see expansion at its existing site as being sustainable. That does mean we need to look at new locations. We’ve always said we’ll do that with a view to making sure we do what’s best for the rest of New Zealand.”

Asked whether Labour would be quite happy to move the port, she said: “Yes. Yes, we’ve always been happy to move the port. That pre-dates any floating of that suggestion [by Peters],” she said. Later she added that she had “always opposed” expansion on the current site.

“I don’t think there is an argument both from an economic and environmental perspective to continue to do that. You’ll recall…I was not alone in that - there were certainly others that held that view – but that’s been a long-held view for me, that I’ve taken for some, some time,” she said.

“If you look at the economic value of the land that the port sits on, for instance, and the cost of that expansion, if that’s not a viable position for them in the long term, why would we invest in that way to remain there?” This was well canvassed, with Ardern well over a year ago joining a protest around port expansion, she said, adding Labour’s Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff, had come to that view as well.


Ardern said it was subjective as to whether Labour had more policy overlap with New Zealand First than National did. “From where I’m sitting, yeah, I would take that view. But again, that’s my own view. It’ll be up to the team from New Zealand First to determine if they hold that view too.”

Meanwhile, she said her chances of becoming Prime Minister were as good as they were on election night. She rejected a suggestion that her speech was more like a concession speech in tone, and said it was “fair and sporting” to acknowledge on a call to Bill English that National had taken a greater proportion of the vote than Labour. “But this is MMP,” she added.

Asked whether there was a risk New Zealand had to go back to the polls in a situation where neither major party could form a majority, she replied: “I don’t think anyone wants to see that outcome.”

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


"Labour leader Ardern opens up on common ground with NZ First"
I think it's a mistake, why would you show your hand to the other party ?


When you have a winning hand?


Yvil. Because labour doesn’t really have to bargain, they mostly on the same page anyway. It’s national that needs to bargain. Labour is best to be out front and open for all to see. If labour greens or nz first were to pick up another seat in the special votes which is highly likely and is what peters is waiting for I’d then give it a 100% chance peters will go with labour

Is any of that news or surprising to you? It wasn't particularly to me, nor, I expect, would it have been to old Winnie

No. Everyone is over thinking the fact peters is waiting. Thinking it’s to do with bargaining. There’ll be a bit of that but mostly it’s the special votes. He said that and he wanted CHANGE for ALL “KIWIS “ . Have we heard that somewhere else. He’ll be hoping for another seat for his new team of save nz. Labour would be better for nz first as well if peters was to step down. I doubt if he trusts national at all

Now Bill is trying to put a negotiations team together that shows WP some respect!
Bit late me thinks..
So no Paula then? And why is Bills chief of staff and the Nats campaign comm director resigning.
Winnie will put on his blue blocker sunnies and see thru all their BS!

youd have to say that there would be little trust among Peters, English, Joyce and Bennett. There would be more blood shed than a Game of thrones episode

She needs to win the argument in the public domain.

She’ll win that support easy for her and peters supporters. It’s not about the support of national voters. But some don’t understand MMP. Only when it’s in there best interest . She’ll be sounding out the 54% who didn’t want national

Once the special votes are counted the right (national) may be only 2-3 percent ahead of the left (labor / Greens) and with NZ first added in there that's a clear majority. The public have therefore spoken, this is MMP buddy. The single party with the most votes has no more power or moral standing than any other party unless they have their own Majority. If one party has 49% and ten other parties have 51% then those ten parties can govern. It's called democracy.

Then we may as well bring back first past the post then. That is Democracy and more open

Yeah of course but some on here seem to think national should get special treatment or three party’s shouldn’t happen OVER two. Load of rubbish

"may be only 2-3 percent ahead of the left " - you can dream of course .. but that is all this is - a dream.

The real numbers , as they stand today are 59 seats for the Right and 54 for the Left - or expressed differently - the Right are 2 seats short of majority , the Left 7 seats ; not even close ..
Those are the only numbers that matter ; all that talk about percentages etc,etc. is for those who do not understand MMP..
90% chance of Nat/NZF government.

Plus Winnie's mob, surely 100% voted for some sort of change, mainly to do with immigration and foreign buying of houses and land, probably the Nats' main props for an "economy". Right/left - pah!

who won the most votes? lets hope Winston keeps to his word the party with the most votes he will talk to first

When has Winston ever stuck to his word?

Once the special votes are counted the right (national) may be only 2-3 percent ahead of the left (labor / Greens) and with NZ first added in there that's a clear majority. The public have therefore spoken, this is MMP buddy. The single party with the most votes has no more power or moral standing than any other party unless they have their own Majority. If one party has 49% and ten other parties have 51% then those ten parties can govern. It's called democracy.

Meanwhile Twyford says he can't rule out dumping Maori seats in NZ First negotiations.

If the Maori seats disappeared then there would be a load of labour voters entering safe rural national electorates. Some might become marginal. Ironically it may not be in National's interests to get rid of the Maori seats.

However, when Labour doesn't deliver for Maori because it doesnt have a coalition partner demanding it, but it will have a multitude of other expenses to now have to pay for with ZERO surplus (I'm being kind) in their budget over the next three years, either the Maori Party will be back, or they are going to have very disgruntled Maori vote block in their electorates. The lack of a Maori Party will prove to have marginalised Maori as a group and I suspect that will become very clear over the next 3-6 years.

Man, he really has no idea what he is doing, does he? Just laughs and no substance. Does he think running a country is a joke? I wouldn’t trust him with my dog.

And how would be stop the 7 Maori seat MP's removing their support on confidence and supply ? End of government.

Sorry Solardb, are you suggesting that in a Labour/Greens/NZF Govt that the seven Maori MPs (read Labour MPS) would serious considering taking down their Govt, their party, and their jobs potentially, because Maori aren't getting their way ? The Maori Party as an INDEPENDENT voice in Parliament, smart enough to get into Govt, was always going to have more chance of getting advances for Maori rather than seven Labour MPS tethered to their party...fat chance. From a purely Maori perspective, there is no upside to the Maori Party vanishing, even less so if Labour doesnt make it into Govt - they will have rolled the dice in their electorates and lost (we're just waiting to see by how much), potentially forever, but hopefully not.

aren;t you forgetting how the maori party was formed///

JA won't stand a chance in negotiations with the old silver fox with 40 years of parliamentary experience. Winne will win this for sure !

That what we NZ First voters are hoping.


Labour and Winnie are quite close on housing.
Also they are closer on immigration than the Nats

And retirement age.
And road vs rail.

They are also closer on the Water Tax and Student debt.

Seems to be a lot of short memories around. Winston believes National leaked his super overpayment details.
That has got to hurt National 's chances.

Bill has been mean to him in the past too.
Plus Nats won his seat in this election.

Apparently he gets on well with Kelvin Davis.

Despite the conventional wisdom, I think it more likely he will go with Labour.
But anyone's guess, really!

Him and Davis are literally best mates. My dad knows them both.

And Bill was part of the group who kicked him out of the National party. Oh, and he hates Steven Joyce.

Allow me to quote the great Prime Winister

"Had Enough?"

ha ha.
Yes, if he's true to his slogan (a cry for change!) then he will side with Labour / Greens.

I have never asked what it means but to claim he was voting for change to a Labour Government is delusional. What it is most likely in reference to is his Policies and what he wants to "change" for the benefit of all of NZ - not just the chosen few. Nats and Labour have both announced Policies as their own that are and have been his for a long time so we are all guessing.

But it wouldn't be a 'Labour Government" it would be a coalition government. Some people can't get past FPP.

I am surprised that when they devised MMP for NZ they didn't make it a rule that the party with the largest number of seats had the responsibility of forming a coalition government. This seems to be the case in Germany where Merkel's party has a far smaller mandate than National has yet has the task of forming a coalition to run the government.


Sod off, then you would end up with a two party race every year, as you would have to make sure that the side of the divide you were on was as big a party as possible, that is not what proportional representation is all about.

Thats right I like MMP, my main vote is for immigration. Voting for WP feels as if my vote will count, fingers crossed. Voting for 2 parties, you feel as if your vote counts for nothing. Just the same old status quo.

I feel some angst from the I like huge property price increase brigade.

Whatever way the chips fall I will always be OK, but Im hoping for a better and fairer NZ. We will see how this unfolds.

Thanks to Winnie we will have a better and fairer NZ even if he goes with the Nats.
We can be very thankful for that

Yeah and if there was only 2 partys . Labour would benefit more anyway . But MMP keeps things fairer. In a way its fairer people have a choice over labour, nz first and greens against a big pushy big party

You don't understand MMP very well. When you use a sentence with the phrase "seems to be" you automatically lose credibility.

Peter to English: 'That wasn't a smart thing to say'

Fritz remember before the election how everyone mocked ardern for never worked outside politics. You watch her kick butt in convincing everybody including peters that labour and greens, can do this.

If the Greens were truly responsible and sensible they would be negotiating with National to form a governing coalition.


If they were drunk enough they might.


You’re getting desperate now zach

Yeah right, you made me laugh though so thanks for that.

Agreed, James shaw would be a muppet if he didn't give Bill a nod, winston doesn't like the greens so they would get pretty much nothing, a national / green alliance would make more sense than a national / nzf alliance as we all want green but we all don't want whiskey boy

Who is "we"? I'd take Winston over the sellout creeps at National any day.

No he wouldn't he'd alienate his voting base, purely on an environmental level think - sea bed mining, oil exploration in Maui dolphin habitat, intensive dairying, pollution, "swimmable" rivers, mining in conservation land. Then factor in the social democratic nature of the Green's economic policies and there's no way Green supporters would accept an entente cordiale with National.

National supporters, including you I believe, have been calling Green supporters like me communists, socialists, watermelons, benefit fraud enablers, a disaster for the economy, now you want our support?

That political compass was an eye opener for me, as to just how right National and even Labour have gone The Greens are left of centre and yet we're called commies.

The Maori party and NZF realised is better to be sitting at the top table and achieving some of their goals rather than sitting in opposition achieving nothing.

These minor parties are just that, minor parties, and can never implement all of their policies as they don't have the mandate.

Imagine what the Greens could have achieved for the environment over these last 9 years. Talk about missed opportunities. Instead at best under a Labour govt they'll forever be the bridesmaid.

"Imagine what the Greens could have achieved for the environment over these last 9 years."

Ha. It takes an awful lot of imagining to believe the greens had anything substantive to gain re: the environment by getting in bed with National.

Selling your soul to National is a death knell for your party - see United Future, Maori, ACT for details. NZ First were luck to get out alive last time. The Greens joining National would be the end of the Greens next election.

Isn’t it amazing. Everyone knows the rules. What MMP is all about before the election and we still come up with such stupid desperate comments

People enjoy being delusional, it makes them feel safer in their little bubble.

if we go by the reasoning that the largest block of votes should be the government, then we should have a national -labour coalition in power.



If we go by that reasoning yes but unfortunately that is not any sort of reasoning that actually exists, it's made up nonsense that the media are regurgitating and it's being lapped up by the Kardashian brigade en mass.

Astute solarDb
Strange how Sir Ponytails neglected that option when he spoke to the media! He had such fine words of respect for the new Labour Leader as a politician
No it all comes down to keeping the greedy happy in the NatNil ranks. Keeping the migrants flowing in so NatNil employers can pay beans or pay nothing for uncomplaining foreign cheap labour. Keeping the housing ponzi rolling for the spruikers who support NatNil who have not evolved as human beings past counting money.

3rd term Govts are arrogant
4th term Govts are abominable
Good luck Hope it's not NatNil

Picking cen/left outcome. Agree more common ground, and a lot of dirty water under the national bridge. Time will tell.


i have heard slight panic from national voters for the last two days as they now realize they have no natural partners left, they have destroyed all three partner parties but not giving them wins when in power.
something they have done in the past as well, they are not a good senior partner under MMP
the most loopy one is the greens should join them, why would they. after three years they would be gone out of parliament like united act and the maori party.
they also expect WP to roll over, sorry you can not do the dirty on someone for years then pretend nothing happened. he has a long memory and would take great pleasure in seeing them sitting in opposition and finishing many of their careers.
i fully expect him to go left especially if they pick up two seats for the reason of revenge,
and to his party followers it is an easier sell, his and labours main policies are more aligned.
immigration, super, housing, state owned assets. rail
have a read of nz first policies, labours and nationals and you will see who fits who

I agree.
No deal will be done until all those special votes are in. If the left pick up one or two more seats from National, you can all but guarantee that Winston will go with the left.

Any National supporter that believes Saturday nights result was a good one for the party is delusional. Bill lost his comfy majority and after 6 months of smearing WInston, he has to go hat in hand to him in order to secure something he believes to be rightfully his.
Just look at the difference in policy ideology - They are almost polar opposites. Any National supporter who thinks that their won isn't going to get a government anything close to what they thought they were voting for.

It just makes me laugh so much.

Peters will want to go out on a high note, with a signature achievement.. He has more chance of this with Labour, given their common ground. He's been shafted by the Nats before, with Bill leading the way. And Merkel will form a govt with 37% - MMP means that the COALITION with the most seats has the moral authority to rule, and NZF is centre-left, giving that grouping a clear majority anyway. A special vote swing will almost certainly be goodbye Big Blue.

Peters won’t put national in for a fourth term. He wants to see the special votes and he’ll naturally try and get the best deal with labour. He needs to egg national along to do that. Personally if labour was to drop the idea of doing a deal with peters labour would have a very good future in 3 years. 3 years is nothing. And 3 years of a forth term for national with peters in a recession would be death by 3 years

I dont mind a coaltion with my main man and Labour , he will not tolerate any stupid taxation nonsense

Milton Friedman talks about why you need taxes.

Don't confuse Boatman with logic - it's not his strong suit.

I don’t normally agree with anything that the lefties at Spinoff publish but this article nails it

Bill at al, if any of you read these forums, please absorb the truth of this article. The best chance for a long period of National led Governments is to let this one go to the coalition of the clueless. It’s like that old military tactic of wounding rather than killing the enemy, to tie up their resources. Slippery cinders wedded to the old goat is an arranged marriage made in hell. Play the long game, please. This right wing voter doesn’t want to see you standing on the same stage as Winston. When he ignores the right wing in his MP cohort, then you cut him off at the knees, it won’t take many jumping the waka to bring down the Government and you will have been able to expose all of Labour/Green weakness and policy.

Amusing how before the election a Nats/Green coalition was never mentioned or entertained,Greens were the loonies from the they are apparently the perfect fit with the Nats...desperation !!
Blue/Greens...they would be the Remmers residents roaring down the road in their diesel Audi Q7 to the ski fields,their beach house and boat,multiple offshore trips burning as much fossil fuel as possible with carbon footprints bigger than King Kong,then saying they are environmentally aware...

There is no way the greens will go into govt with the nats.

It would be the end of the Greens for sure as their core base would implode, although probably organically

Love all the speculation noted here. In truth only Winnie knows which way he will go. But for the sake of speculation maybe he will go with the Devil he knows rather than the 3 ring circus he doesn't!
Lots of people concluding that he hates the Nats and therefore Labour is the choice, unfortunately Labour is only in the mix because of their green buddies, which still don't tally up to the votes of one other party!
A 3 way coalition just seems to have too many chefs, so essentially the NZ public (whether Labour or national or other) will have to settle on the fact that whatever they voted for may not eventuate as policy and could be split up over 2 or 3 parties policies. Not ideal but that's MMP for ya!