Labour's Phil Twyford 'can't rule out' dumping Māori seats in NZ First negotiations

Labour campaign chairperson Phil Twyford told The Nation he "can't rule out" getting rid of Māori seats amid negotiations with NZ First.

"People know where we stand, but all of those issues are going to be on the table."

However, when asked later if she would walk away in the event that a referendum on Māori seats was part of Winston Peters' bottom line, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said "We've already shared our view on that.

"That's an issue for Māori voters and as we've said, we think the Māori seats serve an important role in New Zealand." 

A Labour staffer said Mr Twyford "could have been clearer" about Labour's position. 

This comes after the Labour Party gained 35.8 percent of the party votes to National's 46 percent, leaving both parties to seek support from NZ First (7.5 percent) and Winston Peters to form a government.

Mr Twyford gave National "a bit of credit" for its high proportion of the votes, but he said the Labour Party was feeling "pretty buoyant" about Saturday night's results.

"Jacinda Ardern galvanised a huge Labour campaign in the space of 53 days. She mobilised the centre-left and Labour.

"She got us back in the game and ran a relentlessly positive campaign that inspired a quarter of a million New Zealanders to come across to Labour."

"National lost two MPs, they lost their coalition partners and they lost their governing majority."

"This is MMP. The party who gets the most votes on the night is not the winner.

"The only rule is that the leader who can command a majority in the house gets a crack at forming a government. Labour can form a government with the Greens and New Zealand First."

Mr Twyford insisted several Labour MPs who have longstanding relationships with Winston Peters, including David Parker, Peeni Henare and Kelvin Davis. 

"Both the Greens and NZ First share with Labour a commitment to a more interventionist government that's willing to be active and hands-on in making markets work for ordinary people."

National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce told The Nation Saturday was a night of celebration for the National Party.

"Forty-six percent after nine years in government is unheard of in New Zealand politics."

The election results left National without two of its coalition partners - Māori Party and United Future. Their third current partner - the ACT Party - only obtained 0.5 percent of the party vote, but leader David Seymour secured the Epsom electorate seat.

Mr Joyce said National's primary option now was to talk with New Zealand First.

He said Prime Minister Bill English and Winston Peters have a "very respectful" relationship.

"They've both been in Government for a while. One area that is of great interest to both of us is regional development and I'm sure there will be a meeting of minds there."

While Mr Joyce said it was a "little bit early" to have negotiations out in public, he praised Mr Peters' strong political skills.

"He's a good campaigner; I'd say one of the best in Parliament."