Winston Peters will refuse to form Government with Labour unless push for equal Māori leadership dropped

Winston Peters will refuse to go into Government with Labour again so long as it continues to push for equal Māori leadership.

At New Zealand First's Christchurch conference the leader steered into the race debate saying the name Aotearoa is being rammed down our throats.

Winston Peters revving his supporters up and out of hibernation. After a sluggish start, Peters came out swinging.

"This is one of the worst Governments by itself that we've ever, ever seen," he said. "It's a circus, an absolute circus."

Peters the defender - not just of the old, he says, but democracy too.

"Our democracy is under threat."

So too New Zealand, threatened by the name Aotearoa.

"They're ramming the name of the country down your throats."

Peters is ruling out being back at the table with Labour if it keeps its current agenda.

"It is a bottom-line that if parties wish to pursue racist policies we will not be working with them," he said.

And refusing to talk about the other side - National - as well.

"Why do I have to face those questions for the 29th year in a row?" he replied with a wink.

Newshub can reveal NZ First is facing other questions about a donation made to its former MP Shane Jones when he was in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund.

One year after Nelson shipbuilder Aimex made the donation, it received a $9.8 million loan approved by four ministers including Jones who did not recuse himself.

"Any suggestion that a small political donation influences the allocation of money is - as I said - nappy politics from the ACT Party," Jones said.

But at the conference, there were definitely no nappies, just happy NZ First members.

"Everything's positive, everybody's happy, we're having a great time," one person said.

"He's back, he's back," another said.

When asked if he's back, Peters said that's for the people to decide. However he has decided one thing - how he's going to get their votes.

Amelia Wade analysis

Winston Peters sees his pathway back to power as the growing sense of unease about a changing Aotearoa.

Tomorrow his party will vote on a policy to remove almost all references to the Treaty of Waitangi in our laws.

But Peters has his rod in the same pond as ACT - both are fishing for the same disgruntled voters. It's no coincidence David Seymour reinvigorated his call this week - ahead of this conference - for a referendum on co-governance, likely worried Peters would do the same.

Seymour and Peters are going to be scrapping it out right up the election. And with the grumpy mood in the air, is ripe for a Winston Peters comeback and he knows it.