Winston Peters hints at U-turn on Māori seat referendum

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has suggested he may be willing to consider calling off his push for a referendum on Māori seats in Parliament, removing one of the main barriers to a coalition with Labour.

In an interview with Sky News Australia host Andrew Bolt, the veteran politician said the Māori Party's failure to get representation in Parliament has changed the environment, making the issue less of a priority.

Mr Peters also took aim at the coverage of that bottom line during his election campaign, claiming he never said he wanted to get rid of Māori seats - he just wanted to open it up to a public vote.

"On the question of the Māori seats, it was written up as 'Peters is opposed to and going to abolish Māori seats' - that's not true," he said.

"I said, 'Let's have a referendum and let the people decide' - but anyway, apparently some people don't like democracy."

When questioned on whether he would even consider negotiating with Labour given leader Jacinda Ardern has ruled out a Māori seats referendum, Mr Peters hinted that he'd be willing to compromise.

Ms Ardern's decision to rule out a referendum that would've given Mr Peters more of an incentive to opt for a coalition with Labour was seen as a big gamble - but it appears it may have paid off.

"The Māori Party itself - which was one of the driving things behind us saying it - a race-based, origin-of-race party, got smashed in this election and is gone," he explained.

"And so some of the elements to the environment which the promise was made have since changed - that's all I can say."

Mr Peters' stance on Māori seats has been viewed as one of the major threats to the possibility of a Labour-Greens-New Zealand First Government - but his softened attitude means that coalition is now more likely.