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Christopher Luxon, Winston Peters and David Seymour to finally meet – at least that’s the plan

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The leaders of National and ACT are on their way home to Auckland, where they will meet with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters on Wednesday.

The first meeting between all three is a significant step forward in their ongoing efforts to form the next government.

National leader and incoming Prime Minister Chris Luxon and ACT leader David Seymour were in the capital on Tuesday, while Peters remained in Auckland.

Speaking at Wellington Airport, Luxon told RNZ it had been a “good” day with “productive conversations”.

“We’re making progress but there’s more to do.”

Asked if he had expected Peters to be in Wellington as well on Tuesday, Luxon said: “There were good, productive meetings at all levels and good intensive conversations – it’s been great.”

Seymour was on the same flight out of Wellington, and told RNZ they had had “a couple of meetings with our colleagues in the Nats [National Party]” in Wellington.

“Obviously, we’d hope to meet with our colleagues in New Zealand First but they were in a different city, nonetheless, here we are.”

It was a “risky business” to assume where Peters was “these days”, said Seymour, but he confirmed ACT would meet “with the Nats more tomorrow in Auckland”.

He was reluctant to go into any details about whether the meeting would include New Zealand First: “We’ll have a meeting, and the location… we’ll see.”

There were “a series of further meetings booked to, again, just keep sharpening those pencils, improving that agreement so we get the best agreement and the fastest agreement possible”.

“Let me just say it’s in a secure but undisclosed location, and that’s not trying to be tricky – it’s just that we really do want to get this done as quickly as possible.”

NZ First leader Winston Peters and Darroch Ball departing ACT headquarters on 9 November, 2023.

NZ First leader Winston Peters and Darroch Ball departing ACT headquarters. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Peters had “not given a reason” for not coming to Wellington on Tuesday, “but there could be many reasons that I think we should leave to him”, he said.

In Peters’ absence, Seymour said there had been “a lot of good work”.

“We’ve continued to work through with National on areas of agreement and disagreement. We want a solid, public policy-heavy agreement because the challenges New Zealand is facing are large.

“And the government’s response is going to have to be nimble, detailed and decisive, and that’s what we’re working towards.”

Today marked a month from the general election, and Seymour acknowledged “everyone, everywhere wants everything all the time to be better and faster, there’s no question about that”.

“All I can say is I think ACT has been first up and ready to deal with whomever; we’ve reached out first and we’ve been engaging first in order to get to the result that we want and I think we’ve played a good role in it so far.”

Asked how far negotiations had progressed, Seymour said “there are areas where we’re certainly, I guess you could say, dotting the i’s, there’s areas… of substance that we still have to work out”.

“But what’s important is that we are not going to get the fastest agreement, but we’re going to get the best agreement – and I think that’s an important distinction.”

All of his dealings with Peters had “actually been very professional”, he said.

“That’s all I can say. Obviously it’s helpful to be in the same city but there’s clearly been some miscommunication there and I’ll leave it to him to explain his location.”

ACT leader David Seymour leaves NZ First's offices after a brief meeting with Winston Peters.

ACT leader David Seymour leaves NZ First’s offices after a brief meeting with Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Seymour said he’d been in Wellington “primarily” to meet with National and “thought [Peters] would be here too”.

A potential threesome in the capital had turned into a twosome today, but Seymour joked it “could be worse – we could be in a foursome, but at least that’d be good for playing golf”.

RNZ understands Peters was presented with a proposal by National at the end of last week, but found it unacceptable – so meetings and calls with both of the other leaders continued over the weekend and throughout Tuesday.

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Police guarding scene after Massey house fire overnight

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Seven fire trucks were required to put out a blaze in an abandoned house in Massey overnight.

The fire on Don Buck Rd was first reported around 10pm, with multiple calls coming in from the public, said Fire and Emergency NZ northern shift manager Carren Larking.

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Mother of missing Marokopa children posts letter she says is from their fugitive dad

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The mother of the missing Marokopa children has published a letter which she says was written to her by the children’s fugitive father, Tom Phillips.

Police have been searching for Ember, eight, Maverick, nine, and Jayda, 10, since December 2021, when they were taken by Phillips to an unknown location – though police believe it was in Western Waikato within Marokopa or the surrounding areas.

Tom Phillips does not have legal custody of the children and there is a warrant out for his arrest.

A picture posted by Cat on social media which she says is the last birthday we got to celebrate with Jayda as a family.

A picture posted by Cat on social media which she says is “the last birthday we got to celebrate with Jayda as a family”. Photo: Supplied

Posting on Facebook, their mother, known as Cat, said she was “well aware of the hateful rumours being spread around” and asked that people knew her before judging her.

She said she was sharing the letter to show that all was not as it seemed and to assure people that the children would be coming home to a loving and stable family.

Cat said she along with their two sisters, grandparents, aunties and cousins would be waiting for them.

The handwritten letter – which is not dated or signed and which RNZ has not been able to verify – describes the writer’s love for Cat, apologises to her and says he has a good heart and means well.

“I know if I ever give up trying to make things right I will regret it forever,” the letter says.

“Im sorry for everything I have ever said or done to hurt you,” it says.

The letter goes on to say that “although I make multiple f*** ups I have a good heart and I mean well”.

“We have an awesome family and thats worth fighting for,” is the last line of the letter.

Cat said she had not spoken out earlier because she did not believe it would bring her children home, but the fact that police were now offering a substantial reward had given her the courage to break her silence.

On Tuesday Cat broke her silence to make a video appeal provided by police for people’s help in returning the children to her.

Police have offered an $80,000 reward for information that would help discover the whereabouts of three children and lead to their safe return.

RNZ has contacted the police to verify whether they knew about the letter and whether they can confirm it is from Tom Phillips.

 

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Nicola Willis challenged over climate change, cancer drugs

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Finance Minister Nicola Willis has revealed new details about the timeline for cancer drug funding, and faced a barrage of questions over climate under questioning from MPs.

Willis appeared before the Finance and Expenditure Committee on Wednesday as part of Parliament’s first Scrutiny Week, a new initiative which allows for extended questioning of ministers over the government’s spending.

She quickly came under fire from Labour’s Finance and Climate spokespeople Barbara Edmonds and Megan Woods, and the Greens’ co-leader and Finance spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick.

Cancer drugs

The election policy of funding 13 specific cancer drugs had been a glaring broken promise from this year’s Budget.

Willis told the committee MPs that as the Budget for this year was formulated, the cancer drugs policy “did require more work”, and she outlined how the government intended to pay for the drugs using money from next year’s Budget while still working to supply the promised drugs.

“It was not resolved in time for Budget 2024, so we agreed it would be a priority for funding set aside in Budget 2025,” she said. “So we are now working diligently on the policy delivery ahead of Budget 2025, with a view to making a decision on it shortly.”

However, she soon clarified that “we will be funding those drugs this year”, and the reason the policy was not funded in this year’s Budget was “we still had significant policy choices to make as we worked through the problem. And so it wasn’t appropriate to set aside a contingency until those fundamental policy decisions had been made”.

She later explained under questioning from Woods that people would be able to access at least some of the drugs before 2025.

“We will be making an announcement that will ensure that some of those medicines are funded this year,” she said.

Woods questioned if that would mean funding for the drugs this year, and Willis agreed.

Under questioning from Edmonds she said expressed confidence that the government would find the money, noting the government had already approved health funding from the 2025 and 2026 Budgets.

“As the member says, budgets are about priorities – and we are confident that, because this policy is a priority, we can and will fund it.”

She later told reporters at Parliament the word “some” was “just a use of a word, we will be funding the 13 medicines, we’ve made that commitment, we’ll be making announcements on it shortly”.

When pressed, however, she would not confirm whether that meant all 13 specific drugs listed in National’s policy would be funded and available before 2025.

“We’ll make a full announcement with the details of how drugs will be accessed and what dates in due course. I’m not making that announcement today.”

She also refused to shed light on how exactly the drugs would be funded.

Climate change

Swarbrick focused in on the Budget and its effect on climate change, asking how Williis could account for the $700m her Budget assumed would be coming from Emissions Trading Scheme revenue when today’s unit auction appeared likely to fail.

Swarbrick highlighted that at an expected $58 price point they would fall short of the $60 lower limit at which the units would be permitted to sell, and asked what would happen if the units failed to sell, but Willis said she was “not going to go into a hypothetical”.

“We have a requirement for approximately $2.9b in terms of your numbers stacking up here for revenue from the emissions trading scheme,” Swarbrick said, “but you’ve also have presented a Budget which cuts approximately $15m from market governance and integrity of the emissions trading scheme, so I’m wondering if you could help us reconcile those things”.

“It is very important … that I not in any way influence auction behaviour,” she said. “We want it to be a functional, effective, reliable market.”

When Swarbrick pushed her on why the funding had been cut from the efficacy and market governance, Willis said the government did not consider that funding necessary to improving the market’s operations, and rejected Swarbrick’s characterisation there was “next to no meaningful regulation of the ETS market, for example insider trading is technically legal”.

“We do not have concerns about the current way in which the ETS is regulated,” Willis said. She noted the government was yet to release the second Emissions Reduction Plan, due in December. That plan would set out how the government intends to achieve the emisssions reductions set out in the Emissions Budget, in line with international obligations.

“The government is doing its own work on the emissions reduction plan and we envisage the ETS will play a critical role,” Willis said. She also pointed to some initiatives the government had not scrapped in this year’s Budget including the rollout of electric vehicle chargers and the purchase of electric buses for local councils to buy.

Swarbrick earlier asked whether the decisions in this year’s Budget would increase or decrease emissions. Willis acknowledged climate impact policy assessments had showed they “won’t make a significant material difference to emission period 1. Over the second two emission periods, they will have an impact of potentially increasing emissions”.

However, she questioned whether those reports were “as good as they could be”, and pointed to the emissions impact report having included policies like more police on the roads, and upgrades to Defence Force equipment and infrastructure, as examples of where the reports were questionable.

“My point is it is not always appropriate to narrowly look at a policy based simply on its emission impact, because I don’t think there is a New Zealander who would say ‘I don’t want you hiring more police because it might add to emissions’.”

She later told reporters the assessment only looked at a subset of 40 initiatives.

Swarbrick also asked about the $3 billion to $24b the government is estimated to need to fork out in “offshore liability” – buying foreign climate credits to make up for the lack of domestic emissions reductions, and whether Willis had budgeted for those expected costs this year.

“No, I have not,” Willis said. “That has not been a priority in this Budget.”

VIA RNZ

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