What Winston Peters will do, according to those who know him

Former politicians who know Winston Peters well can't agree on which way he's going to go.

Mr Peters is waiting for the election results to be finalised on October 7 before he starts negotiating to form the next Government. NZ First's options are National on one side, Labour and the Greens on the other, or the crossbenches - meaning the party will vote issue by issue, supporting a minority National Government.

Tau Henare, who was a NZ First MP when Mr Peters sided with National in 1996, told The Nation on Saturday he expects his old boss to side with no one, and opt for the cross benches.

Whatever Mr Peters does opt for, Mr Henare think he's already made his mind up - and now he's playing games and enjoying "the theatre".

"Why would you hold a press conference when you've got nothing to say... If you've got nothing to say, close your door. Don't talk to people."

"What he's doing now, I believe, is he's just having a look at the public reaction about where it's going to go," says Mr Henare.

Tau Henare.
Tau Henare. Photo credit: The Nation

He's urging Mr Peters to get on the phone and start negotiating now.

"This is not North Korea and America. This is little-old New Zealand. Pollies know each other - they should be able to ring each other and say, 'Hey, let's get it on.'"

Richard Prosser spent six years in Parliament with NZ First. He says Mr Peters probably made his mind up well before the election campaign even began.

"The game had been played inside Winston's mind over quite a long period of time. All the permutations of possible outcomes... he would have been contemplating."

Richard Prosser.
Richard Prosser. Photo credit: The Nation

He says NZ First's leadership spent time going over National and Labour policy before the campaign, but he wasn't privy to the discussions.

Mr Prosser believes Mr Henare could be right to guess Mr Peters will opt for the crossbenches, he expects NZ First to side with Labour and the Greens - and waiting for the special votes to be counted could be a part of the strategy.

"If the difference between the two biggest parties is smaller, then in terms of public perception it's more easy to justify."

The special votes in previous years have taken seats off National and given them to the Greens.

Peter Dunne worked with Mr Peters between 2005 and 2008, his party - United Future - and NZ First both supporting Helen Clark's Labour Government on confidence and supply.

He says Mr Peters will decide based on "his own best interests, and New Zealand First's best interests. To some extent that's understandable, but I don't think it's justifiable."

Peter Dunne.
Peter Dunne. Photo credit: The Nation

He expects Mr Peters to go with National, but warns him against trying to extract too much during the negotiations because National's 46 percent of the vote is a lot bigger than what NZ First got.

"Tails cannot wag dogs, and 7.5 percent is a tail."

Mr Dunne says he always started negotiations on election night, with a follow-up call the next day - saying there's no need to wait until the special votes are counted because it won't change the electoral math.

"Stop the pussyfooting and step up to the plate and exercise a bit of leadership."