New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says his party will announce the result of its coalition negotiations on Thursday afternoon, following days of talks.
In a statement issued at 5.25pm, Peters said: "New Zealand First will be in a position tomorrow afternoon to make an announcement on the result of negotiations following the 2017 General Election."
Peters said he had spoken to both Bill English and Jacinda Ardern to advise them of that, "amongst other matters".
In a statement, a spokeswoman for English said National would hold a caucus meeting at 11am on Thursday to provide its MPs with an update on coalition talks, before a separate teleconference with the party's board.
"We stress that we have had no indication of what decision New Zealand First will make. We have no further comment at this stage."
The announcements came after another full day of New Zealand First caucus discussions over the shape of the next government, with signs of progress after Peters’ late-night meetings with Ardern and English.
Peters met with the leaders of Labour and National on Wednesday evening without staff present, following two full days of discussions with the New Zealand First caucus and board.
With the New Zealand First leader saying on Tuesday his party was “98 per cent there” on policy, it’s likely the leaders may have begun to canvas ministerial appointments and the governing arrangements.
New Zealand First MPs arriving at the party’s Bowen House caucus offices on Wednesday morning appeared confident an announcement was close.
Fletcher Tabuteau, who has been part of New Zealand First’s negotiating team, said he had “no idea” how things would progress but suggested an announcement could come soon, interest.co.nz reported.
“Well, we’re getting close, right?”
New MP Mark Patterson also seemed to suggest a deal was close to fruition.
“We’re at the business-end. There’s no doubt about that, so we’ll find out,” he said. “It’s probably beyond us, a lot of this stuff now – there’ll be other parties that make, that have to make that call.”
Former Labour MP and new New Zealand First caucus member Shane Jones maintained his habit of cryptic pronouncements, declining to comment on when an announcement would come but talking about his upcoming wedding in Rarotonga.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to go for - my ring – whether it will be sapphire or ruby, but I’m getting married and I’ve got ring-sizing today,” Jones said according to interest.co.nz.
While there are still weeks before a decision needs to be made in time for the resumption of Parliament, it seems reasonable to assume New Zealanders should not be waiting much longer.
Peters will be conscious of having already missed his October 12 deadline to make a public announcement, and having subsequently said a decision would be made by the end of this week will presumably be keen to hold to that before the public turns against him.