Bill English prepping for long stint as PM

Bill English has been Prime Minister for only three months, and is yet to win an election as leader.

Last time, in 2002, he led the National Party to its worst-ever defeat - but he's confident he'll not only win this year's election, but lead the party into the next.

"I'm hugely enjoying the job, it's a great team," he told Three's The Nation, saying he's taking an "unashamedly long-term view" of his new role.

"As we've developed these frameworks around lifting the quality of our freshwater or predator-free NZ or a better start and a better life for our most challenged children, that takes a while. And we do have to protect that, particularly from the Opposition parties who are locked into a 1970s view of the state which would be damaging to many of the people we are now helping."

John Key endorsed Mr English as his successor, and it took only days for his would-be challengers for the top job to bow out of the race.

United Future

To win the upcoming election, it's likely Mr English will need support from the Māori Party, United Future and ACT - the same partners Mr Key has relied on for the past eight years.

United Future leader Peter Dunne however faces a challenge from Labour in the form of ex-Police Association boss Greg O'Connor. The Greens won't be standing a candidate in the Ōhāriu electorate to boost Mr O'Connor's chances of wresting the seat from Mr Dunne.

Mr English says National is yet to decide whether to give its voters the nod to vote for Mr Dunne, or not stand altogether to help him out.

"Let's just see how things go. What we do know is that the arrangements that have been made there between Labour and the Greens fundamentally change the choices around voting Labour, because they're no longer the moderate, alternative Government they used to be."

Māori Party

As for the Māori Party, Mr English says their presence "made us a better Government", but he's wary of their repaired relationship  with Mana's Hone Harawira.

The Māori Party won't be standing a candidate against him in Te Tai Tokerau, and there is talk of Mana and the Māori Party joining forces in the future.

Whether this makes a future coalition with National unlikely, Mr English says is up to the Māori Party.

"We've had to deal with some challenging issues because they put them on the table. In that sense I think they've represented Māori very well."

New Zealand First

If National's poll ratings slip, Mr English could find himself turning to Winston Peters and New Zealand First. He says there won't be any concessions on immigration policy to win Mr Peters over.

"We have to make sure that we can sell to New Zealand the prospect of an energised, focused new National Government after the 2017 election. That's what'll get our vote up far enough to negotiate with anybody."

There might be some fine-tuning of immigration policy, but "you shouldn't expect major changes".

"Our positions will be quite clear by the time they go to the polls. What they do know is we're open to trade, open to investment and open to people. They shouldn't expect some major change in policy."