Chris Hipkins: We can work with Greens, but clear Kiwis have given Labour mandate

Senior Labour MP Chris Hipkins has made it crystal-clear that while his party can work with the Greens, it is Labour that New Zealanders have given the mandate to.

Still glowing from Labour's epic election night win - the first time under MMP that a political party has received an outright majority - Hipkins said Kiwis had awarded his team a "clear mandate to get on with the job that we set out". 

"We set out a plan before the election and we have a clear mandate now to get on with that and we are looking forward to doing that," he told The AM Show on Wednesday.

But how might the next government look? 

Labour has been having negotiations (or a conversation depending on who you ask) with the Greens over the last week about what role the minor party may play over the coming term. 

As Labour doesn't need them to govern, the Greens' bargaining ability is limited. Newshub revealed last week that a formal coalition is off the table.

On Tuesday, Greens' co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson said progress was being made with hope of taking an agreement of some kind to party members to consider later this week. They wouldn't divulge the content of their meetings, but it's understood it's likely Shaw has been offered the climate change portfolio he has held for the last term. 

Hipkins, who currently holds the health and education ministerial roles amongst others, told The AM Show that the current "negotiations" are "perhaps different then they would be if we didn't have a majority and if we had to work with them."

He echoed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in saying that Labour is open to finding consensus - but that only goes so far.

"We have always said, and the Prime Minister was very open about this during the campaign, that we do like to work with other people. We want to be a collaborative government," he said.,

"But we also have to acknowledge that New Zealanders have given us a clear mandate to get on with implementing the policies that we put before the country during the election."

Hipkins said Labour and the Greens - who have been working under a confidence and supply agreement for the last three years - have a "solid working relationship" with common ground on areas like the environment and climate change. 

"[The Greens] do bring something to government and I think if we can find a way to continue to work with them over the next three-year term, then we would like to do that. Having said that, that needs to be within the context that Labour does have a majority to govern, to implement the policies we put before the country and that is what we are going to be doing."

Later in the interview, Hipkins again repeated that the negotiations are "being conducted in the context of a Labour majority government."

Ultimately, the Greens' membership will have to approve any deal the politicians come up with this week. The final proposed agreement will be put to members and requires the support of 75 percent to be approved.

"It's a straight-up and down vote so we would either join the Government or we would not join the Government," Shaw said. 

"Once we do have some form of agreement, there is a call," Davidson added. "We don't know exactly how long that call will take but that call is for the wider party delegates. Last time it took a certain number of hours. We don't know - we cannot tell at this point how long the call will take."

If the agreement doesn't reach the 75 percent threshold, then the party will head to Opposition.