Winston Peters on charm offensive after Three Strikes and super lawsuit test cohesion

The Deputy Prime Minister has launched a charm offensive after facing scrutiny over Three Strikes legislation and his Superannuation lawsuit.

New Zealand First caused a cluster headache for the Justice Minister Andrew Little after appearing to change its mind before on the repeal of Three Strikes legislation.

That led to an accusation from National's Mark Mitchell that Mr Little is "in danger of transitioning from the Minister of Justice to the Associate Minister of Justice".

Winston Peters is in charge, was the underlying allegation.

Three Strikes legislation is fiercely opposed by both Labour and the Greens. Mr Little called the policy "the high water mark of policy stupidity".

Green co-leader Marama Davidson was clearly disappointed, telling 95bFM, "it's unfortunate New Zealand First can't take an evidence-based approach" with the policy. 

Then on Monday afternoon the cluster intensified when Mr Peters' continued legal action over his leaked superannuation payment was revealed.

Mr Peters is understood to be pursuing some of this country's most senior public servants in the case.

On Tuesday breakfast media, Mr Little and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern faced stern questions over both announcements. "Strains" in the coalition even made the Guardian newspaper

Ms Ardern repeatedly said Mr Peters' lawsuit is a "private, not a public matter" on Morning Report on Tuesday morning - that's despite a number of senior public servants understood to be involved, the fact the taxpayer may pick up the costs, and potential conflict of interest once Mr Peters takes up as Acting Prime Minister.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr Peters was all praise for the Justice Minister.

"I've got a lot of confidence in Andrew Little in terms of his reform capacity and in terms of his justice portfolio, which is seriously in need of reform," Mr Peters told media on his way into Question Time.

"I back him to the hilt. I'm not going to get into a petty little sideshow."

Once he got into Question Time, the charm offensive continued. Mr Peters was answering questions on behalf of Ms Ardern, who is in Auckland ahead of the birth of her baby.

Mr Peters said New Zealand First ministers were aware Mr Little would be looking at the Three Strikes law, and said Mr Little did not breach the Cabinet manual when he announced the proposed repeal.

"Minister Little is a reforming Minister - probably the most reformist minister we've had in decades. And because he has been putting all these ideas out for the public, there's no reason for him to swing from any of his statements at all.

"It looks like - and it is - an open Government," Mr Peters said.

Mr Peters implied New Zealand First indicated support for the repeal of Three Strikes before changing course.

"When people have heard all the facts, they do sometimes change their mind," he said while answering for the Prime Minister at Question Time.

He said the Three Strikes repeal was pulled from Cabinet on Mr Little's decision.